Rendered into English by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta SwamI
In the final 8 verses of this major Upanishad, the ultimate message of the Rig Veda—human fulfillment through unwavering consciousness of God—is systematically concluded.
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death, and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.
Since the start of the material world everyone is trying for a permanent life, but the law of Nature is so cruel that no one has avoided the hand of death. No one wants to die. That is a practical fact. Nor does anyone want to become old or diseased. But the law of Nature does not allow anyone immunity from death, old age or disease. The advancement of material knowledge has not solved these problems of life. Material science can discover the nuclear bomb to accelerate the process of death, but it cannot discover anything which can protect man from the cruel hands of death, disease and old age.
From the Puranas we learn of the activities of Hiranya Kashipu: This king was materially very much advanced, and by his material acquisitions, by the strength of his nescience, he wanted to conquer death. He underwent a type of meditation so severe that all the planetary systems became disturbed by his mystic powers. He forced the creator of the universe, the demigod named Brahma, to come down to him, and then he asked him for the benediction of becoming an “Amar,” one who does not die. Brahma refused to award this, however, because even he, the material creator, who has command over all the planets, is not himself an Amar. He has a long duration of life, as is confirmed in The Bhagavad Gita, but that does not mean that he doesn’t have to die.
“Hiranya” means gold, and “kashipu” means soft bed. This gentleman was interested in these two things, money and women, and he wanted to enjoy this sort of life by becoming artificially immortal. He asked Brahma many things indirectly in hopes of fulfilling his desire to become an Amar. He asked benediction that he might not be killed by any man, animal, god, or any living being within the categories of the 8,400,000 species. He also asked that he might not die on the land, in the air, in the water or by any weapon whatsoever. So on and on, Hiranya Kashipu thought foolishly that this would guarantee him against death. But in the end, although Brahma granted him all these benedictions, he was killed by the Personality of Godhead in the Form of a half-man, half-lion. And no weapon was used to kill him except the nails of the Lord. He was killed on the lap of the wonderful Living Being Who was beyond his conception.
The whole point here is that even Hiranya Kashipu, the most powerful of materialists, could not become deathless by his various plans. What, then, will be accomplished by the tiny Hiranya Kashipus of today, who make plans which are throttled from moment to moment?
Sri Ishopanishad instructs us not to make one-sided attempts to win the struggle for existence. Everyone is struggling hard for existence, but the law of material Nature is so hard and fast that it does not allow any to surpass it. In order to have permanent life one must be prepared to go back to Godhead.
This process of going back to Godhead is a different branch of knowledge, and it has to be learnt from the revealed Vedic Scriptures, such as the Upanishads, Vedanta, Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagwatam, etc. Therefore, to become happy in this life and to get a permanent blissful life after leaving this material body, one must take to this sacred literature and obtain transcendental knowledge. The conditioned living being has forgotten his eternal relation with God, and he has mistakenly accepted the temporary place of birth as all-in-all. The Lord has kindly delivered the above-mentioned Scriptures in India and other Scriptures in other countries to remind the forgetful human being that his home is not here in this material world. The living being is a spiritual entity, and he can only be happy by returning to his spiritual home, with the Godhead.
The Personality of Godhead, from His Kingdom, sends His bona fide servants to propagate this mission of going back to Godhead, and sometimes He comes Himself to do this work. All living beings are His beloved sons, His parts and parcels, and therefore God is more sorry than we ourselves are for the sufferings which we are constantly undergoing in the material condition. The miseries of the material world are also indirect reminders of our incompatibility with dead matter, and intelligent living entities generally take note of these reminders, and side by side engage themselves in the culture of Vidya, or transcendental knowledge. Human life is the best opportunity for the culture of spiritual knowledge, and the human being who does not take advantage of this opportunity in human life is called a “Naradhama,” the lowest of human beings.
The path of “Avidya,” or material advancement of knowledge for sense gratification, means repetition of death and repetition of birth also. The living entity, as he is spiritually, has no birth or death. Birth and death are concerned with the outward covering of the spirit soul, the body. This is compared with the putting on and taking off of outward garments. Foolish human beings who are grossly absorbed in the culture of Avidya, nescience, do not mind this cruel process, but, being enamored of the beauty of the illusory energy, they do the same thing over repeatedly, without learning any lesson from the law of Nature.
The culture of Vidya or transcendental knowledge is essential for the human being. Unrestricted sense enjoyment in the diseased, material condition of the senses must be restricted as far as possible. Unrestricted sense enjoyment in this bodily condition is the path of ignorance and death. The living entities are not without spiritual senses. Every living being in his original spiritual form has all the senses which are now material, covered by the body and the mind. Activities of the material senses are perverted reflections of spiritual pastimes. The engagement of the spirit soul under the material covering is the diseased condition of the soul. And real sense enjoyment is possible when the disease is removed. In our pure spiritual form, freed from all material contamination, pure enjoyment of the senses is possible. The aim of human life should, therefore, not be perverted sense enjoyment, but should be to cure the material disease. Aggravating the material disease is no sign of knowledge. It is the sign of culturing Avidya, ignorance.
The degree of a fever must not be increased from 105 to 107 for good health. The degree is to be reduced to the normal state of 98.6. That should be the aim of human life. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the degree of the feverish material condition which has therefore reached the point of 107 in the form of atomic energy, with the foolish politicians crying that at any moment the world may go to hell. That is the result of the advancement of material knowledge, and of the neglect of the most important part of life, the culture of spiritual knowledge. Here is a warning in Sri Ishopanishad that we must not follow such a dangerous path leading to death. On the contrary, we must side by side develop the culture of spiritual knowledge so that we may become completely free from the cruel hands of death.
This does not mean that all civic activities for the maintenance of the body should be stopped. There is no question of stopping activities, as there is no question of wiping out one’s temperature altogether when trying to recover from a disease. We have already tried to explain the matter by the expression “to make the best use of a bad bargain.” The culture of spiritual knowledge has to be done with the help of this body and mind, and therefore maintenance of the body and mind is required if we are to reach our goal. The normal temperature should be maintained at 98.6 degrees, but it should not be foolishly increased to the degree of 107. The great sages and saints of India wanted to maintain the normal temperature by a balanced program of material and spiritual knowledge. They never allowed the misuse of human intelligence for diseased sense gratification.
Human activities diseased by a temperament of sense gratification have been regulated in the Vedas under the principles of Salvation. This system is found in four divisions: religion, economic development, sense gratification and salvation. At the present moment the people have no interest either in religion or salvation. They have only one aim in life, sense gratification, and in order to fulfill this end they have different plans for economic development.
Misguided man thinks that religion should be maintained for its contribution to economic development, and that economic development is required for sense gratification. And in order to guarantee further sense gratification after death, in heaven, there is some system of religious observances. But this is not the purpose of the principles of salvation. The path of religion is actually for self realization. Economic development is required just to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition. A man should live in a healthy condition of life with a sound mind just to realize Vidya, true knowledge, which is the aim of human life. This life is not meant for working like an ass or for the culture of Avidya or for sense gratification.
The path of Vidya is most perfectly presented in The Srimad Bhagwatam. The Bhagwatam directs a human being to utilize his life in the matter of enquiring about the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is realized step by step as Brahman, Paramatman, and, at last, Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead. This Absolute Truth is realized by the broad-minded man who has attained knowledge and detachment, having followed the 18 principles of The Bhagavad Gita described above. The central point in these 18 principles is the attainment of transcendental devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Therefore it is recommended for all classes of men to learn the art of devotional service to the Lord.
Religiousness, economic development and sense gratification without the aim of attaining devotional service to the Lord are all different forms of nescience, as will be shown hereafter in Sri Ishopanishad. Thus, to cultureVidya, especially in this age, one must always hear and chant and worship with concentrated attention, targetted on the Personality of Godhead, Who is the Lord of the transcendentalists.
Those who are engaged in the worship of demigods enter into the darkest region of ignorance, and still more so do the worshipers of the Absolute.
The Sanskrit word “Asambhuti” means those who have no independent existence. “Sambhuti” is the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Who is absolutely independent of everything. In The Bhagavad Gita, the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, positively describes Himself in the following words: “I am the Supreme Cause of the powers delegated to the demigods, the great sages and the mystics. And because these are endowed with limited powers, it is very difficult for them to know how I appear Myself, by My own internal potency, in the form of a man.”
All philosophers and great “Rishis, ” or mystics, try to distinguish the Absolute from the relative by their tiny brain power. However, this can only help them to reach the point of negating relativity, without realizing any positive trace of the Absolute. Definition of the Absolute by negation is not a complete concept. Such negative definitions lead one to create a concept of his own, and one then imagines that the Absolute must be formless and without qualities. But these negations are simply the opposite numbers of the relative forms and qualities, and are themselves therefore relative. By such a concept of the Absolute one can at the utmost reach to the impersonal effulgence of God, known as Brahman; but one cannot make further progress to the stage of Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead.
Such mental speculators do not know that Krishna is the Absolute Personality of Godhead, and that the impersonal Brahman is the glaring effulgence of His transcendental body, while Paramatman, the Supersoul, is His all-pervading representation. They do not know that Krishna has His eternal Form, with transcendental qualities of eternal bliss and knowledge. The dependent demigods and great sages imperfectly realize Him as one of the powerful demigods, but they consider that the Brahman effulgence is the ultimate Absolute Truth. Krishna’s devotees, however—who by dint of their unalloyed devotion surrender unto Him—can know that He is the Absolute Person, and that everything emanates from Him only. Such devotees continuously render loving service unto Krishna, the Fountainhead of everything.
In The Bhagavad Gita it is also said that only bewildered persons, driven by a strong desire for sense gratification, worship the demigods for the satisfaction of temporary problems. A temporary relief from a certain difficulty by the grace of some demigod is the demand of less intelligent persons. The living being is in the material entanglement, and he has to be relieved from material bondage entirely to obtain permanent relief on the spiritual plane, where eternal bliss, life and knowledge exist.
In The Bhagavad Gita it is said that the worshipers of the demigods can go to the planets of the respective demigods. The Moon worshipers can go to the Moon, the Sun worshipers can go to the planet of the Sun, and so on. Modern scientists are now trying to go to the Moon with the help of rockets, which is not really a new attempt. The human being with his advanced consciousness is naturally inclined to travel in outer space and to reach other planets, either by sputniks, by mystic powers, or by worshiping the particular predominating deity on that planet. In the Vedic scriptures it is said that one can reach other planets in any of the ways mentioned above, most generally by worshiping the demigod presiding over the particular planet. But these planets are temporary residential places; the only permanent planets are the Vaikuntha Lokas, found in the spiritual sky, where the Personality of Godhead predominates. The Bhagavad Gita confirms this as follows:
Even though one may rise to the highest planet, Brahma Loka, one has to come back again. But if someone attains to Me (in the spiritual world), he doesn’t have to take birth again.
Sri Ishopanishad suggests that one remains in the darkest region by hovering over the material planets, whatever his means may be. The whole universe is covered by the gigantic material elements, just like a coconut ball half-filled with water. As it is airtight and fully covered, the darkness within is dense, and therefore planets like the Sun and the Moon are required to illuminate the inside of the universe. Outside the universe there is a vast expansion of unlimited Brahmajyoti space, full of Vaikuntha Lokas.
The biggest and the highest planet in the Brahmajyoti is the Krishna Loka, or Goloka Vrindaban, where the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, resides. Lord Sri Krishna never quits this Krishna Loka where He dwells with His eternal associates, and yet He is omnipresent throughout the complete material and spiritual cosmic situation. This fact has already been explained in Mantra Four of Sri Ishopanishad. The Lord is present everywhere, as the Sun is. A man can move through space with the highest possible speed, and still he will find that the Sun is there, although the Sun is situated in its own undeviating orbit.
The problem of life, however all this may be, cannot be solved by going to the Moon. There are many pseudo-worshipers who become religionists for the sake of name and fame only. Such pseudo-religionists do not wish to get out of this universe and reach the spiritual sky. They want only to maintain the status quo in the material world, under the garb of worshiping the Lord. And the atheists and the impersonalists lead such foolish pseudo-religionists into the darkest regions by preaching the cult of atheism. The atheist directly denies the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the impersonalist supports the atheist by preaching the impersonal existence of the Supreme Lord. So far as we have gone through Sri Ishopanishad, we have not come across any mantra where the Personality of Godhead is denied. It is said that He can run faster than anyone. Those who are running after the planets are certainly persons, and if the Lord can run faster than all of them, why should He be considered impersonal? The impersonal conception of the Supreme Lord is another face of ignorance, due to an imperfect vision of the Absolute Truth.
And so the ignorant pseudo-religionists, the manufacturers of so-called incarnations—directly violating the Vedic injunctions—are liable to enter into the darkest region of the universe, on account of their business of misleading those who follow them. These impersonalists generally pose themselves as incarnations of God to the foolish, who have no knowledge of the Vedic wisdom. And if such foolish men have any knowledge at all, it is more dangerous in their hands than ignorance itself. Such impersonalists do not even worship the demigods as is recommended in the scriptures.
In the scriptures there is a recommendation for worshiping the demigods under different circumstances, but at the same time it is said that there is no real need for this. In The Bhagavad Gita it is clearly stated that the results of worshiping the demigods are not permanent. The whole material world is not permanent, and therefore anything achieved here within the darkness of material existence is also impermanent. The problem, then, is how to obtain real and permanent life.
The Lord states that, as soon as one reaches Him by devotional service—which is the one and only way to approach the Personality of Godhead—there is complete freedom from the bondage of birth and death. In other words, the path of salvation, or getting out of the material clutches, fully depends on the principles of knowledge and detachment. And the pseudo-religionists have neither knowledge nor detachment from material affairs. Most of them want to continue in the golden shackles of material bondage, under the shadow of altruistic and philanthropic activities, and in the name of religious principles. By false religious sentiments they present a make-show of devotional service, indulging in all sorts of immoral principles, and still pass as spiritual masters and devotees of God. Such violators of religious principles have no respect for the authoritative Acharyas, the holy teachers in the strict disciplic succession; and to mislead the people in general they themselves become so-called Acharyas, without even following the principles of the Acharyas.
These rogues in human society are the most dangerous elements and, for want of religious government, they pass on without being punished by the law of the state. They cannot, however, avoid the law of the Supreme, Who has clearly declared in The Bhagavad Gita that these envious demons, in the garb of religious propagandists, shall be thrown down into the darkest region of hell. It is confirmed in Sri Ishopanishad that the pseudo-religionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after finishing with the spiritual mastership business, which is simply for the matter of sense gratification.
It is said that one result is obtained by worshiping the Supreme Cause of all causes, and that another is obtained by worshiping what is not supreme. All this was heard from the undisturbed authorities who clearly explained it.
In this mantra of Sri Ishopanishad the system of hearing from the undisturbed authorities is confirmed. Unless one hears from the bona fide Acharya, who is never disturbed by the changes of the material world, one cannot have the real key to transcendental knowledge. The bona fide spiritual master, who has also heard the “Sruti Mantras,” or Vedic knowledge, from his undisturbed Acharya, never manufactures or presents anything which is not mentioned in the Vedic literature. In The Bhagavad Gita it is clearly said that the worshipers of the “pitris,” or forefathers, reach the forefathers, the gross materialists who make plans to remain here in this world remain here, and the devotees of the Lord, who worship none but Lord Krishna, the Supreme Cause of all causes, reach Him in His Abode in the spiritual sky.
Here also in Sri Ishopanishad, it is said that different results are achieved by different modes of worship. If we worship the Supreme Lord, certainly we will reach the Supreme Lord in His eternal Abode, and if we worship demigods like the Sun and Moon, we can reach these respective planets without any doubt. And if we want to remain here on this wretched planet with our planning commissions and our stop-gap political adjustments, we can certainly do that also.
Nowhere in authentic scriptures is it said that whatever you do and whatever you worship you will ultimately reach the same goal. Such foolish theories are offered by self-made masters who have no connection with the “Parampara,” the bona fide system of disciplic succession. The bona fide spiritual master cannot say that for everyone who has his own mode of worship—be it worship of the demigods or of the Supreme—worship leads to the same goal. For a common man it is very easy to understand that a person starting by train from Bombay can reach the destination for which he has purchased his ticket, and nowhere else. A person who has purchased a ticket for Calcutta can reach Calcutta. But contemporary so-called masters preach that, whatever spiritual ticket you may purchase, it will take you to the Supreme Goal. Such mundane and compromising offers attract many foolish creatures to become puffed up with their manufactured methods of spiritual realization, but the Vedic instruction doesn’t uphold them. Unless one has received knowledge from the bona fide spiritual master—one who is in the recognized line of disciplic succession—one cannot have the real thing as it is. The Bhagavad Gita says:
Thus, O chastiser of the foe, the Yoga principles [of The Gita] were known to the great kings. But, the Parampara system being broken, these principles appear now to be lost.
When Lord Sri Krishna was present in this world, the Bhakti Yoga principles defined in The Bhagavad Gita had become distorted, and so the Lord had to re-establish the disciplic system, beginning with Arjuna, who was the most confidential friend and devotee of the Lord. The Lord clearly said to Arjuna that it was because he was His devotee and friend that the principles of The Gita were understandable to him. In other words, no one can understand The Gita who is not a devotee and friend of the Lord. This means that only one who follows the path of Arjuna can understand The Gita.
At the present moment there are many interpreters of this sublime dialogue who have nothing to do with Arjuna or Lord Krishna. They interpret the verses of The Bhagavad Gita in their own ways, and postulate all sorts of rubbish in the name of The Gita. Such interpreters believe neither in Sri Krishna nor in His eternal Abode. So, then, what can they explain about The Bhagavad Gita?
The Gita clearly says that only those who have lost their senses worship the demigods. Krishna ultimately advises that one should give up all other ways and modes of worship, and fully surrender unto Him only. Those persons who are cleansed of all sinful reactions can have such unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord. Others will continue hovering over the material sphere with their paltry ways of worship, and thus will be misled from the real path, under the false impression that all paths lead to the same goal.
In this mantra the Sanskrit word “Sambhavat,” worship of the Supreme Cause, is very significant. Lord Krishna is the Original Personality of Godhead, and everything that exists has emanated from Him. In The Gita the Lord explains Himself. He says there that He is the Creator of everyone, including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. And because these three principal deities of the material world are created by the Lord, He is the Creator of all that exists in the material and spiritual worlds.
In the Atharva Veda it is similarly said that One Who existed before the creation of Brahma, and One Who enlightened Brahma with Vedic knowledge, is Lord Sri Krishna. “The Supreme Person desired to create the living entities, and thus Narayana created all the beings. From Narayana, Brahma was born. Narayana created all the Prajapatis. Narayana created Indra. Narayana created the eight Vasus. Narayana created the eleven Rudras. Narayana created the twelve Adityas.” This Narayana being the plenary manifestation of Lord Krishna, Narayana and Krishna are one and the same.
There are later readings also which say that the same Supreme Lord is the Son of Devaki. His childhood with Devaki and Vasudeva and His identity with Narayana have also been confirmed by Sripad Shankara Acharya, even though Shankara does not belong to the Vaishnava, or personalist, cult. There are still other readings, also in the Atharva Veda, such as this: “Only Narayana existed in the beginning, and there was no existence of Brahma or Shiva, nor of Agni, the fire, nor of water. There were no stars, there was no Sun, no Moon. He does not remain alone. He creates as He desires.”
In the Mokshadharma it is said: “I created the Prajapatis and the Rudras. They have not complete knowledge of Me because they are also covered by My illusory energy.”
In the Varaha Puranam it is said: “Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and from Him the four-headed Brahma became manifested, as also did Rudra, who later became omniscient.”
Thus all Vedic literature will confirm this view that Narayana or Krishna is the Cause of all causes. In The Brahma Samhita also it is said that the Supreme Lord is Sri Krishna. He is “Govinda,” the Delighter of every living being, and He is the Primeval Cause of all causes. The really learned person will know all this by the evidence of great sages and the Vedas, and will thus decide to worship Lord Krishna as all-in-all.
Persons are called “Buddha,” or really learned, who fasten themselves only to the worship of Sri Krishna. This conviction can be established when one hears the transcendental message from the undisturbed Acharya, with faith and love. One who has no faith in, or love for, Lord Krishna cannot be convinced of this simple truth. Such faithless persons are described in The Bhagavad Gita as “Mudhas,” foolish as the ass. It is said that the mudhas deride the Personality of Godhead because they don’t have complete knowledge from the undisturbed Acharya. One who is disturbed by the whirlpool movements of the material energy is not qualified to become an Acharya.
Before hearing The Gita, Arjuna was disturbed by this whirlpool—the reaction of family, society and community affection—and thus he wanted to become a philanthropist and a nonviolent man of the world. But when he became Buddha, by hearing the Vedic knowledge of The Bhagavad Gita from the Supreme Person, he changed his decision and became a worshiper of Lord Sri Krishna, Who had Himself designed the Battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna worshiped the Lord by fighting with his so-called relatives, and thus became a pure devotee of the Lord. Such achievements are possible only by worshiping the real Krishna and not by worshiping some fabricated “Krishna” inaugurated by foolish men who are without knowledge of the intricacies of the science of Krishna described in The Gita and in the Srimad Bhagwatam.
According to the Vedanta Sutra, the “Sambhuta” is the source of birth and sustenance, and the reservoir after annihilation. The Srimad Bhagwatam, the natural commentary upon the Vedanta Sutras by the same author, comments that the source of all emanations is not a dead stone, but is “Abhijna,” or fully conscious. Therefore, the Primeval Lord Sri Krishna says in The Gita that He is fully conscious of the past, the present and the future; and no one, including demigods such as Shiva and Brahma, knows Him fully. Those who are disturbed by the tides of material existence cannot know Him fully. Such half-educated spiritual masters try to make some compromise, and make the mass of human beings the object of worship. They do not know that such worship of the masses is not possible, nor are the masses perfect. This is something like pouring water on the leaves of the tree, instead of watering the root. The natural process of worship is to pour water on the root of the tree from which the leaves grow. But today’s disturbed leaders become more attracted by the leaves than the root, and therefore, in spite of perpetually watering the leaves, all is drying up for want of nourishment.
Sri Ishopanishad advises us to pour water on the root, the Source of all germination. Worshiping the mass population by rendering bodily service which can never be perfect is less important than service to the soul. The soul is the root generating different types of bodies in terms of the law of Karma, or material reaction. To serve only the human being by medical aids, social amenities and educational facilities, while cutting the throats of poor animals in slaughterhouses, does not add up to any valid service to the living beings.
The living being is perpetually suffering from the material disease of birth, death, old age and disease, in different types of body. The human form of life is a chance to get out of this entanglement of material existence. This can be done simply by re-establishing the lost relationship of the living entity with the Supreme Lord. And the Lord comes personally to teach us this philosophy of surrender unto the Supreme, the “Sambhutam.” Real service to humankind is to teach surrender unto the Supreme Lord, and to worship Him only, with full love and energy. That is the instruction of Sri Ishopanishad in this mantra.
The simple way to worship the Supreme Lord in this age of disturbance is to hear and chant about His great activities. The mental speculators, however, think of the activities of the Lord as imaginary, and therefore they refrain from any such hearing process, and invent some jugglery of words, without any substance, to divert the attention of the poor innocent mass of people. Instead of hearing the activities of Lord Krishna, they prefer to advertise themselves by inducing their followers to sing about the pseudo-spiritual master. In modern times, the number of such pretenders has increased in considerable numbers, and it has become a problem for the pure devotees of the Lord to save the mass of people from the unholy propaganda of these pretenders and imitation incarnations of God.
The Upanishads indirectly draw our attention to the Primeval Lord Sri Krishna, and The Bhagavad Gita, which is the summary of all Upanishads, directly points out Sri Krishna. One should, therefore, hear about Krishna as He is in The Gita or in the Srimad Bhagwatam, and that will gradually help him in cleansing his mind of all contaminated things.
The Bhagwatam says: “By hearing the activities of the Lord, one draws the attention of the Lord towards the devotee. And the Lord, being situated in the heart of every living being, helps the devotee by giving him proper direction.” The Bhagavad Gita also confirms this.
This inner direction by the Lord cleanses the heart of the devotee of all dirty things which are produced by the material modes of passion and ignorance. The non-devotees are under the direction of passion and ignorance. By passion one cannot become detached from material affinity, and by ignorance one cannot know what he actually is, and what the Lord is. Thus, in the state of passion, there is no chance for self realization however much one may play the false part of a religionist. For a devotee, by the grace of the Lord, the modes of passion and ignorance are removed, and he at once becomes situated in the quality of goodness, the sign of a perfect brahmin. This stage of brahminical qualification can be earned by anyone and everyone, provided he follows the path of devotional service under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. The Bhagwatam says that any lowborn living entity can be made purified under the guidance of a pure devotee of the Lord, because the Lord is so extraordinarily powerful.
The first sign of brahminical qualification is that the candidate becomes happy, and becomes enthusiastic in the matter of devotional service to the Lord. This unveils before him, automatically, all about the science of God. And, thus knowing the science of God, he gradually becomes loosened from his material attachments, and his doubtful mind becomes crystal clear, by the grace of the Lord. In this stage only can one become a liberated soul, and see the Lord in every step of life. That is the perfection of “Sambhutat,” as described in this mantra of Sri Ishopanishad.
One should know perfectly well about the Personality of Godhead and His transcendental Name, as well as the temporary material creation with its temporary demigods, men and animals. When one knows these, he surpasses death, and the ephemeral cosmic manifestation with it; and in the eternal Kingdom of God he enjoys his eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
Human civilization, by its so-called advancement of knowledge, has created many material things, including space capsules and atomic energy. But it has failed to create a situation in which man need not die, take his birth again, become old, or suffer from diseases. Whenever these questions are raised by an intelligent man before a so-called scientist, the scientist very cleverly replies that material science is progressing, and that it will ultimately be possible to render man deathless and ageless. Such answers by material scientists prove their gross ignorance of material Nature. In material Nature everything is under the stringent laws of matter, and must pass through six stages of existence: birth, growth, duration of life, transformation, deterioration, and death at last. Nothing that is in contact with material Nature can be beyond the above-mentioned six laws of existence, and therefore no one, whether demigod, man, animal, or tree, can survive forever here in the material world.
The duration of life may vary in different species. Lord Brahma, the chief living being within this material world, may continue his life for millions and millions of years, while the minute germs may live just for some hours; that does not matter. No one in this material world can survive eternally. Things here are born or created under certain conditions, they stay for some time, and, if they have life then they grow, create generations, then dwindle gradually, and at last are annihilated. By that law even the Brahmas (there are millions of Brahmas in different universes—each one bigger than the last) are all liable to death, either today or tomorrow. Therefore, the whole material world is called “Martya Loka,” the place of death.
The material scientists and politicians are trying to make this place deathless because they have no information of the deathless spiritual nature, due to their ignorance of the Vedic literature. The Vedic literature is full of knowledge matured by experience . But modern man is averse to receive knowledge from the Vedas, Puranas, and other scriptures.
In the Vishnu Purana we have information that Lord Vishnu, the Personality of Godhead, possesses different energies, known as “Para,” superior, and “Apara,” or “Avidya”—inferior. The material energy in which we are at present involved is called the Avidya, inferior, energy; and the material creation is made possible by such energy. But there is another, superior energy called the “Para Shakti,” where everything is different from this material inferior Nature. That nature is the eternal or deathless creation of the Lord.
All the material planets—upper, lower and intermediate, including the Sun, Moon and Venus—are scattered over the universe. These planets exist only during the lifetime of Brahma. Some lower planets, however, are vanquished after the end of one day of Brahma, and they are again recreated during the next daytime of Brahma. Time calculation on the upper planets is different from that of ours. One of our years is equal to twenty-four hours, or one day and night, on many of the upper planets. The four ages of Earth (Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali) make a duration of twenty-two thousand years and five months in terms of the time of these upper planets. Such a length of time multiplied by one thousand is one day of Brahma, and one night of Brahma is the same. With such days and nights accumulating into months and years, Brahma’s life is estimated at one hundred years. And at the end of his life, the complete universal manifestation becomes vanquished.
The living beings residing in the Sun and Moon, as well as those in the “Martya Loka” system—which includes this Earth and many planets below the Earth—are all merged into devastating water during the nighttime of Brahma. During this time no living beings or species of life remain manifested, although spiritually they continue to exist. This non-manifested stage is called “Avyakta.” And again, when the entire universe is vanquished at the end of Brahma’s lifetime, there is an Avyakta state. But beyond these two non-manifested states there is another, spiritual atmosphere or nature, where there is a great number of spiritual planets, existing eternally even when all the planets within this material universe are vanquished.
The cosmic manifestation within the jurisdiction of the various Brahmas is a display of one-fourth the energy of the Lord, and this energy is called inferior. The spiritual nature beyond the jurisdiction of Brahma is called “Tripadavibhuti,” three-fourths the energy of the Lord, and is the superior energy, or “Para Prakriti.”
The predominating Supreme Person in the spiritual nature is Lord Sri Krishna. He can be approached only by unqualified devotional service, and not by anything else, such as the processes of Jnana (philosophy) and Yoga (mysticism), much less that of Karma (fruitive work). The “karmis,” or fruitive workers, can elevate themselves to the “Swarga Loka” planets, including the Sun and the Moon. Jnanis and yogis can reach still higher planets, such as the Brahma Loka; and, becoming still more qualified by devotional service, they are allowed to enter into the spiritual nature, either in the illuminating cosmic atmosphere of the spiritual sky (the Brahman), or on the planets, according to qualification. It is certain, however, that no one can enter into the spiritual planets called Vaikunthas without being trained in devotional service.
On the material planets, everyone from Brahma down to the ant is trying to lord it over material Nature, and this is called the material disease. So long as this material disease continues, the living entity has to undergo the process of changing bodies, whether in the form of a demigod, a man, or an animal; and ultimately has to endure the unmanifested condition during the two kinds of devastations: the night of Brahma, and at the end of Brahma’s life. If we want to cease the process of repeated birth and death, and the concomitant factors of old age and disease, then we must try to enter into the spiritual planets, and Lord Krishna by His plenary expansions is the dominating Figure on each and every one of them.
No one can predominate over Krishna. And anyone trying to predominate over material Nature is called a conditioned soul, being subject to the laws of material Nature, suffering the pangs of repeated birth and death. The Lord comes here to re-establish the principles of religion, and the basic principle is to develop the attitude of surrender toward Him. The Lord teaches this in the last portion of The Bhagavad Gita, but foolish men have tactfully misinterpreted this prime teaching, and have misled the people in diverse ways. They have been urged to open hospitals, but are not interested in educating themselves to enter into the spiritual kingdom by devotional service. They have been taught to take interest only in temporary relief work, which can never bring about real happiness for the living entity. They start varieties of public and semi-governmental institutions for tackling the devastating power of Nature. But they don’t know how to pacify insurmountable Nature.
Many men are advertised as great scholars of The Bhagavad Gita, but they overlook the factual method presented there to pacify material Nature. Powerful Nature can only be pacified by the awakening of God consciousness, as is clearly mentioned in The Gita.
Sri Ishopanishad, however, teaches in this mantra that one must know both the “Sambhuti”and the “Vinasa”perfectly, side by side. By knowing the Vinasa alone—the temporary material manifestation—you cannot save anything: In the course of Nature, there is devastation at every moment. No one can be saved from these devastations by any efforts of hospital-opening. They can be saved only by complete knowledge of the eternal life of bliss and awareness. The whole Vedic scheme is meant to educate men in this art of achieving eternal life. People are often misguided by other, temporarily attractive things based on sense-gratification, but that sort of service which thus misleads them is most degraded.
You must save your fellow man in the right sense. There is no question of liking or disliking the truth. It is there. If you want to be saved from repeated birth and death you must take to the devotional service of the Lord. There can be no compromise in this matter of necessity.
O my Lord, Sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee.
In The Bhagavad Gita, the Lord explains about His Personal rays, called “Brahmajyoti”—the dazzling effulgence of His Personal Form—as follows:
I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal and imperishable, eternal, the constitutional position of ultimate happiness. (Gita, 14.27)
Brahman, Paramatman and Bhagavan are three angles of vision of the same Absolute Truth. Brahman is the phase of the Absolute Truth most perceptible to the beginner. Paramatman is the phase of the Absolute Truth for those who have progressed. And Bhagavan is the ultimate realization of the Absolute Truth. This is confirmed in The Gita, where the Lord says that He is the ultimate concept of the Absolute Truth. He is the source of the Brahmajyoti, as well as of the all-pervading Paramatman feature.
As He says that He is the ultimate reservoir of the Brahmajyoti, or impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth, so also He says in The Gita that there is no need of explaining His unlimited potency: it can be summarized in short that, by His one plenary portion—the all-pervading Paramatman—He maintains the complete material cosmic creation. And in the spiritual world also He maintains all manifestations. Therefore, in the Sruti Mantra of Sri Ishopanishad, He is addressed as “Pusan,” the ultimate Maintainer.
The Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, is always full with transcendental bliss. When He was present at Vrindaban in India5,000 years ago, He always remained in transcendental bliss, even from the beginning of His childhood pastimes. The killing of varieties of demons, such as Agha, Baka, Putana, and Pralamba were also pleasure excursions for Him. When He was within His village He was enjoying with His mother, sisters and friends as the naughty Butter Thief, and everyone of His associates was enjoying celestial bliss by His stealing. The Lord is known as the Butter Thief, but the term is never used in a derogatory sense. The term Butter Thief, in the case of the Lord, is used with the understanding of the pleasure of His pure devotees. Everything that was done by the Lord at Vrindaban was for the pleasure of His associates there. Such manifestations were created by Him to attract the dry speculators in the transcendental line, as well as the acrobats of the so-called Hatha Yoga system, trying to find the Absolute Truth.
Of the childhood play of the Lord with His playmates, the cowherd boys, Sukadeva Goswami in the Srimad Bhagwatam said:
The Personality of Godhead, Who is perceived as the impersonal Brahman of bliss, Who is worshiped as the Supreme Lord by the devotees, and Who is considered an ordinary human being by the mundane, played with the cowherd boys who had achieved that position after a huge accumulation of pious deeds.
Thus the Lord is ever engaged in transcendental loving activities along with His spiritual associates in the various relationships of “Shanta,” calmness, “Dasya,” servitorship, “Sakhya,” friendship, “Vatsalya,” paternal affection, and “Madhurya,” conjugal love.
It is said that the Lord never goes out of the Vrindaban Dhama, and so it may be asked how He manages the affairs of His different creations. This is answered in The Gita: He pervades all the material creation by His plenary part, known as the “Purusha” incarnation. The Lord has nothing to do with material creation, maintenance and destruction, but He causes it to be done by His plenary expansion, this Paramatman or Supersoul feature. Every living entity is known as “Atman,” soul. The principal Atman, Who controls them all, is “Paramatman”—Supersoul.
The whole system of God realization is a great science. The materialists can only analyze and meditate on the twenty-four factors of the material creation. They have very little information of the Purusha, the Lord. The impersonal transcendentalists are simply bewildered by the glaring effulgence of the Brahmajyoti. If one wants to see the absolute Truth in full, one has to penetrate beyond the twenty-four material elements and the glaring effulgence as well. Sri Ishopanishad hints at this direction, praying for removal of the “Hiranmaya Patra,” the dazzling covering. Unless this covering is removed, and unless one can perceive the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is, factual realization of the Absolute Truth can never be achieved.
The Paramatman feature of the Personality of Godhead is divided into three plenary expansions, collectively called “Vishnu Tattwa.” The Vishnu Tattwa within the universe (one of the three principal deities—Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) is known as the “Kirodakshayee Vishnu.” He is the all-pervading Paramatman in each and every individual living entity. And the “Garbhodakshayee Vishnu” is the collective Supersoul of all living entities. Beyond these two there is the Karanadakshayee Vishnu lying in the Causal Ocean. He is the Creator of all the universes. The Yoga system teaches the serious student to meet such Vishnu Tattwas after overcoming the twenty-four material elements of cosmic creation. The culture of empiric philosophy helps one to realize the impersonal Brahmalyoti, which is the glaring effulgence of the transcendental body of Lord Sri Krishna. This is confirmed in The Bhagavad Gita as well as in the Brahma Samhita (5.40):
In the millions and millions of universes, there are innumerable planets, each and every one of them different from the others by cosmic constitution, and all of them situated in a corner of the Brahmajyoti. This Brahmajyoti is the Personal ray of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Whom I do worship.
This mantra of the Brahma Samhita is the position of factual realization of the Absolute Truth, and the Sruti Mantra of Sri Ishopanishad under discussion is a confirmation of this mantra as a process of realization. It is a simple prayer to the Lord to remove the Brahmajyoti, so that one can see the real face of God.
Perfect knowledge means to know the root of Brahman. The root of Brahman is Lord Sri Krishna, and in scriptures such as the Srimad Bhagwatam the science of Krishna is perfectly elaborated. In the Bhagwatam, the author, Srila Vyasadeva, has established by realization that the Supreme Truth is described either as Brahman, Paramatman or Bhagavan. But he has never said that the Supreme Truth is anywhere described as “Jiva,” the ordinary living entity. Therefore the living entity is not the all-powerful Supreme Truth. Otherwise, there would be no need of prayer by the entity for the Lord to remove the dazzling cover in order to see His real face.
The conclusion is, therefore, that in the absence of potent manifestations of the Supreme Truth, the impersonal Brahman is realized. Similarly, when there is realization of the material potencies of the Lord, with little or no information of the spiritual potency, it is called Paramatman realization. Therefore, both Brahman and Paramatman realization of the Absolute Truth are partial realizations. But when one realizes the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, in full potency after the removal of the Hiranmoya Patra, as is prayed for in this mantra, then he realizes that “Vasudeva sarvam iti”: Lord Sri Krishna, known asVasudeva, is everything: Brahman, Paramatman and Bhagavan. He is Bhagavan, the root, and Brahman and Paramatman are His branches.
In The Bhagavad Gita there is a comparative analysis of the three grades of transcendentalists, known as “jnanis,” the worshipers of the impersonal Brahman, the yogis, or worshipers of the Paramatman feature, and bhaktas, or devotees of Lord Sri Krishna. It is stated in The Gita that amongst all types of transcendentalists, one who is a jnani, who has cultured the Vedic knowledge, is supreme. Yet the yogis are still more than the jnanis. The yogis are far superior to fruitive workers as well. And amongst all kinds of yogis, “the one who constantly serves the Lord with all his energy is topmost.
The summary is that a philosopher is better than a laboring man, and a mystic is far superior to a philosopher. And of all the mystic yogis, one who is following Bhakti Yoga, who is constantly engaged in the service of the Lord, is the highest. Sri Ishopanishad directs us toward this perfection of life.
O my Lord, O primeval Philosopher, Maintainer of the universe, O regulating Principle, Destination of the pure devotees Well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind, please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays, so that I can see Your Form of Bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the Sun, as am I.
The Sun and the Sun’s rays are one and the same qualitatively. Similarly, the Lord and the living entities are one and the same in quality. The Sun is one, but the molecules of the Sun’s rays are innumerable. The Sun’s rays constitute part of the Sun; the Sun and the rays conjointly are the complete Sun. Within the Sun planet there is the Sun god, and similarly within the supreme spiritual planet, Goloka Vrindaban, from which the effulgent Brahmajyoti is emanating, there is the eternal Lord, as is stated in the Brahma Samhita:
The transcendental Abode of Lord Krishna is the land of touchstones, of which the houses are built, shaded by desire trees. The Lord is engaged there in herding the surabhi cows, and is always served and surrounded by thousands of Goddesses of Fortune, who wait upon Him with all respect.
The description of this transcendental Abode of Lord Krishna is in the Brahma Samhita, and the Brahmajyoti is described there as the supreme rays from that planet, just as the Sun’s rays come from the Sun globe. Unless one surpasses the Brahmajyoti glare, one cannot have any information of the land of the Lord. The impersonalist philosopher, being blinded by the dazzling Brahmajyoti, cannot realize the factual Abode of the Lord, nor His transcendental form. Affected by such a poor fund of knowledge, the thinkers cannot understand the all-blissful transcendental form of Lord Krishna. Sri Ishopanishad, therefore, offers this prayer to the Lord to remove the effulgent rays of the Brahmajyoti, so that the pure devotee can see His all-blissful transcendental form.
By realization of the impersonal Brahmajyoti, one experiences the auspicious aspect of the Supreme; by experience of the Paramatman, or all-pervading feature of the Supreme, one experiences a still more auspicious enlightenment, and by meeting the Personality of Godhead face to face, the devotee experiences the most auspicious feature of the Supreme. Being addressed as the Philosopher, the Maintainer, the Well-wisher, and so forth, the Supreme Truth cannot be considered impersonal. That is the indication of Sri Ishopanishad. The word Maintainer is especially significant: The Lord maintains His devotees specifically, although He is the Maintainer of one and all beings. By surpassing the impersonal Brahmajyoti, when the devotee sees the personal aspect of the Lord and His most auspicious eternal form, then the devotee realizes the Absolute Truth in full. Srila Jiva Goswami says in his Bhagwat Sandharva as follows:
The complete conception of the Absolute Truth is realized in the Personality of Godhead, because He is Almighty, with full potency in transcendence. In the Brahmajyoti the full potency of the Absolute Truth is not realized, and therefore Brahman realization is only partial realization of the Personality of Godhead. O learned sages, the first letter of the word “Bhagavan” is twice significant: first in the sense of “one who fully maintains,” and second in the sense of “guardian.” The second letter Ga—means guide, leader or creator. The letter Va (or Ba) means that every being lives in Him, and He also lives in every being. In other words, the transcendental sound Bhagavan represents the infinite knowledge, potency, energy, opulence, strength and influence, all without any tinge of material inebrieties.
The Lord fully maintains His unalloyed devotees, and He guides such devotees progressively on the path of devotional perfection. As Leader of His devotees, He ultimately awards the desired result of devotional service by giving Himself to His devotees. The devotees of the Lord see the Lord eye to eye by the causeless mercy of the Lord, and thus the Lord helps His devotees to reach the supermost spiritual planet, Goloka Vrindaban. As Creator, He can create all the necessary qualifications in His devotee so that the devotee can ultimately reach Him. The Lord is the Cause of all causes, and there is no cause of Him, for He is the Original Cause. As such He enjoys His own Self by manifesting His own internal potency.
The external potency is manifested not exactly by Himself, for He expands Himself as the “Purushas,” and it is in these forms that He maintains the features of the material manifestation. By such expansions does He create, maintain and annihilate the cosmic manifestation.
The living entities are also differentiated expansions of His Self, and because some of the living entities desire to be lord, imitating the Supreme Lord, He allows them to enter into the cosmic creation, with the option of fully utilizing their propensity for lording it over. On account of the presence of His parts and parcels, the living entities, the whole phenomenal world is stirred into action and reaction. The living entities are given full facility to lord it over material Nature, but the ultimate controller is the Lord Himself in His plenary feature of Paramatman, the Supersoul, which is one of the Purushas.
Therefore, there is a gulf of difference between the living entity known as “Atman,” and the controlling Lord, known as “Paramatman”—the soul and the Supersoul. Paramatman is the controller, and Atman is controlled; therefore they cannot be on the same level. The Paramatman fully cooperates with the Atman, and thus He is known as the constant companion of the living being.
This all-pervading feature of the Lord, Which exists in all circumstances of waking and sleeping, and also in potential states, and from Which the Jiva-Shakti (living force) is generated—as both the conditioned and the liberated souls—is known as Brahman.
Thus the Lord is the Origin of both Paramatman and Brahman, and therefore He is the Origin of all living entitles, and all else that exists. One who knows this engages himself at once in the devotional service of the Lord. Such a pure and fully cognizant devotee of the Lord is fully attached to Him in heart and soul, and whenever such a devotee assembles with similar devotees, they have no other engagement but to glorify the Lord in terms of His transcendental activities. Those who are not as perfect as the pure devotees, those who have realized only the Brahman feature or the Paramatman feature of the Lord, cannot appreciate the activities of such perfect devotees. But the Lord always helps such pure devotees by supplying necessary knowledge within their hearts, and by His special favor He dissipates all the darkness of ignorance. This the philosophers and yogis cannot imagine, because they more or less depend on their own strength. As is stated in the Katha Upanishad, the Lord can be known only to those whom He favors, and not to anyone else. And such special favors are bestowed upon His pure devotees only. Sri Ishopanishad here indicates such favor of the Lord, beyond the purview of the Brahmajyoti.
Let this temporary body be burnt into ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate Beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You.
This temporary material body is certainly a foreign dress, and in The Bhagavad Gita it is clearly said that, after the destruction of the material body, the living entity is not annihilated, nor does he lose his identity. The identity of the living entity is never, therefore, impersonal or without form; but on the contrary, it is the material dress which is formless, and which takes a shape according to the form of the indestructible person. No living entity is originally formless, as is wrongly supposed by persons with a poor fund of knowledge. Here also in Mantra Seventeen of Sri Ishopanishad, the principle that the living entity exists after the annihilation of the material body is supported.
In the material world there is wonderful workmanship by material Nature in the matter of creating different varieties of bodies for the living beings, in terms of their propensities for sense gratification. The one who wanted to taste stool is given a material body which is quite suitable for eating stool—that of a hog. Similarly, the tiger has such a body that it can live by enjoying the blood of other animals, and by eating their flesh.
The human being is not meant for eating stool or flesh, because the shape of the teeth is different. Nor does he have any desire to taste stool, even in the most aboriginal state of life. Human teeth are so made that they can chew and cut fruit and vegetables, with two canine teeth so that one can eat flesh also. The material bodies of all animals and men are foreign to the living entity, and change according to the desire of the being for sense gratification. In this cycle of evolution one changes bodies one after another: from aquatic life—when the world was full of water—to vegetable life, from vegetable life to worm life, from worm life to bird life, from bird life to animal life, and from animal life to the human form.
The highest development of life is this human form when it is possessed of a full sense of spiritual knowledge, and the highest development of spiritual sense is described in this mantra of the Veda: one should give up this material body to be turned into ashes, and allow the living air to merge into the eternal reservoir of air. The living being’s activities are performed within the body by movements of different kinds of air, and this is called, in sum, the “Prana Vayu.” The yogis generally study to control the airs of the body, and the soul is supposed to rise up from one circle of air to another till it rises onto the “Brahmaranda,” or highest circle of air. Then the perfect yogi can transfer himself to any planet he likes. The process is to give up one material body and then enter into another body, and the highest perfection of such a bodily change is possible when the living entity is able to give up this material body altogether, as is suggested in this mantra. He may then enter into the spiritual atmosphere, where he develops a completely different quality of body—a spiritual body—which never has to meet death or change.
Here in the material world one has to change his body, forced by material Nature on account of his different desires for sense gratification. These desires are represented in the various species of life, from the germs to the most perfect material bodies, those of Brahma and the demigods. All of these have bodies of matter in different shapes, and the intelligent person sees oneness not in the variety of bodies, but in the spiritual identity.
The spiritual spark which is the part and parcel of the Supreme Lord is the same either in the body of a hog or in the body of a demigod. There are different bodies according to the pious and vicious activities of the living entity. The human body is highly developed, with full consciousness of the constitution of the body; and the most perfect man, according to the Vedic scriptures, surrenders unto the Lord after many, many births of culturing knowledge. The culture of knowledge reaches perfection only when the knower comes to the point of surrendering unto the Supreme Lord, called Vasudeva. But even after attaining knowledge in the matter of one’s spiritual identity, unless he comes to the point of knowing that the living entities are eternal parts and parcels of the Whole, and that they can never become the Whole, one has to fall down again into the material atmosphere, even after having been at one with the Brahmajyoti.
The Brahmajyoti emanating from the transcendental body of the Lord is full of spiritual sparks. The spiritual sparks being individual identities, with the full sense of existence, sometimes desire to become the enjoyers of the senses, and thus are given places in the material world to become false lords, under the dictation of the senses. This sense of overlordship is the material disease of the living being, and under the spell of such sense enjoyment he transmigrates through the different shapes of body manifested in the material world. The sense of becoming one with the Brahmajyoti is not, therefore, mature knowledge. The sense of surrendering unto the Lord completely, and developing the sense of spiritual service, is the highest perfectional stage.
In this mantra the living entity prays to enter into the spiritual Kingdom of God after relinquishing the material body and the material air. The devotee prays to the Lord to remember his activities and the sacrifices he has performed, now before his material body is turned into ashes. This prayer is made at the time of death, with full consciousness of his past deeds and of the ultimate goal. One who is completely under the rules of material law remembers the heinous activities performed during the existence of his material body, and therefore he gets another material body after death. The Bhagavad Gita confirms this truth. It states that, at the time of death, the mind carries with it the propensities of the dying animal, and the next life is obtained in terms of that mental state.
Unlike the simple animals, who have no developed mind, the human being can remember the activities of his passing life like dreams at night, and therefore his mind remains surcharged with material desires, and he cannot enter into the spiritual kingdom with a spiritual body. The devotees, however, by practice of devotional service to the Lord, develop a sense of love for Godhead. And even if at the time of death a devotee does not remember his godly service, the Lord does not forget him. This prayer is to remind the Lord about the devotee’s sacrifices, but even if there is no reminder, the Lord does not forget the devotional service of the pure devotee.
The Lord clearly describes His intimate relationship with His devotees in The Gita. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur explains The Gita’s verses in this connection:
One should accept a devotee who is on the right path of the saints, even though such a devotee may seem of loose character. One should try to understand the real import of the words “loose character.” A conditioned soul has to act in double functions, namely one for the maintenance of the body, and again for self realization. Social status, mental development, cleanliness, austerity, nourishment and the struggle for existence, are all for the maintenance of the body. And the self realization part of his activities is executed in his occupation as a devotee of the Lord, and he performs action in that connection also. These two different functions go along parallel lines because a conditioned soul cannot give up the maintenance of the body. The proportion of activities for maintenance of the body decreases, however, in proportion to the increase in devotional service. And so long as the proportion of devotional service does not come to the right point, there is a chance for an occasional exhibition of worldliness. But it should be noted that such worldliness cannot continue for any length of time because, by the grace of the Lord, such imperfections will come to an end very shortly. Therefore, the path of devotional service is the only right path. Being on the right path, even an occasional occurrence of worldliness does not hamper one in the advancement of self realization.
And, in The Gita Itself, Krishna says:
One who is engaged in devotional service, despite the most abominable action, is to be considered saintly because he is rightly situated. Very shortly does he become righteous, and attain to lasting peace. O son of Kunti, it is My promise that My devotee will never perish. O son of Pritha, anyone who will take shelter in Me, whether a woman or a merchant or born in a low family, can yet approach the Supreme Destination. How much greater then are the brahmins, the righteous, the devotees and saintly kings! In this miserable world, these are fixed in devotional service to the Lord. Engage in My service, and surrender unto Me. Completely absorbed in Me, surely will you come to Me. (Gita, 9.30-34)
Such facilities of devotional service are denied the impersonalists because they are attached to the Brahmajyoti feature of the Lord. They can neither penetrate the Brahmajyoti, as is suggested in the previous mantras, nor do they believe in the Personality of Godhead. Their business is mostly concerned with semantics, the jugglery of words of mental creation. As such the impersonalists pursue fruitless labor, which is confirmed in The Bhagavad Gita in the Twelfth Chapter.
All the facilities suggested in this mantra of Sri Ishopanishad can easily be obtained by constant contact with the Personal feature of the Absolute Truth. Devotional service to the Lord consists essentially of nine transcendental activities on the part of the devotee:
1. hearing about the Lord,
2. glorifying the Lord,
3. remembering the Lord,
4. serving the Lotus Feet of the Lord,
5. worshiping the Lord,
6. offering prayers to the Lord,
7. serving the Lord,
8. friendly association with the Lord,
9. surrendering everything to the Lord.
These nine principles of devotional service, either in sum total or one by one, can help the devotee to be constantly in touch with God, and therefore at the end of life it is easy for the devotee to remember the Lord. By adopting only one of these nine principles it was possible for the following renowned devotees of the Lord to achieve the highest perfection:
1. By hearing only, Maharaj Parikshit, the hero of Srimad Bhagwatam, achieved the desired result.
2. Just by glorifying the Lord, Sukadeva Goswami, the speaker of Srimad Bhagwatam, achieved his perfection.
3. By praying, Akrura achieved the desired result.
4 . By remembering, Prahlad Maharaj achieved the desired result.
5. By worshiping, Prithu Maharaj achieved perfection.
6. By serving the Lotus Feet of the Lord, the Goddess of Fortune, Lakshmi, achieved perfection.
7. By personal service to the Lord, Hanuman achieved the desired result.
8. By friendship, Arjuna achieved the result.
9. By surrendering everything that he had, Maharaj Bali achieved the desired result.
Actually, the explanation of this mantra and of practically all the mantras of the Vedic hymns is summarized in the Vedanta Sutras; and then again they are properly explained in the Srimad Bhagwatam. Srimad Bhagwatam is the mature fruit of the Vedic tree of wisdom. In the Srimad Bhagwatam this particular mantra is explained in the questions and answers of Maharaj Parikshit and Goswami Sukadeva at the very beginning of their meeting. As hearing and chanting of the science of God is the basic principle of devotional life, so the complete Bhagwatam is heard by Maharaj
Parikshit and chanted by Goswami Sukadeva. Maharaj Parikshit enquired from Sukadeva because Sukadeva was a greater spiritual master than any great yogi or transcendentalist of his time.
Maharaj Parikshit’s question was, “What is the duty of every man, specifically at the time of death?”
The answer by Goswami Sukadeva was that everyone who is desirous of being free from all anxieties should always hear about and glorify the Personality of Godhead, Who is the Supreme Director of everything, the Extinguisher of all difficulties, and the Supersoul of all living entities.
So-called human society is generally engaged at night in the matter of sleeping or sex indulgence. And during the daytime men are engaged in earning money as much as possible, or else in shopping for the family maintenance. People have very little time to talk about the Personality of Godhead or to make any enquiries about Him. They have dismissed the case of God’s existence in so many ways, especially by declaring Him to be impersonal—that is, without any sense perception. But the Vedic literature, whether the Upanishads or the Vedanta Sutras or The Bhagavad Gita or the Srimad Bhagwatam, in every scripture declares the Lord to be the sentient Being, supreme over all other living entities. And His glorious activities are identical with Himself. One should therefore not indulge in hearing and speaking of the rubbish activities of worldly politicians and the so-called big men of society, but should so mold his life that not a second is wasted without engagement in godly activities. Sri Ishopanishad directs us towards such activities.
Unless one is accustomed to this devotional practice, what will he remember at the time of death when the body is dislocated, and what will he pray to the Almighty Lord for, remembering his sacrifices in life? Sacrifice means sacrificing the interest of the senses. One has to learn this art by employing the senses in the service of the Lord during one’s lifetime, so that one can utilize the result at the time of death.
O my Lord, powerful as the fire, Omnipotent One, now I do act to offer You all obeisances, falling at Your Feet on the ground. O my Lord, please lead me in the right path to reach You, and, as You know all of what I have done in the past, please make me free from the reactions to my past sins, so that there will be no hindrance to my progress.
This surrendering process and praying for the causeless mercy of the Lord leads the devotee progressively on the path of complete self realization. The Lord is addressed as the fire because He can burn anything into ashes—including the sins of the surrendered soul. As described in the previous mantras, the real or ultimate aspect of the Absolute is His feature as the Personality of Godhead. His impersonal feature of the Brahmajyoti is a dazzling covering over the face of the Lord. Fruitive activities, or the “Karmakanda” path of self realization, is the lowest stage in this endeavor. As soon as such activities become even slightly deviated from the regulative principles of the Vedas, such activities are transformed into “Vikarma,” or acts against the interest of the actor. Such Vikarma is enacted by the illusioned living entities simply for sense gratification, and thus such activities become hindrances on the path of self realization.
Self realization is possible for the human form of life, but not for other forms. There are 8,400,000 species or forms of life—of which the human form, with the qualifications of brahminical culture, presents the only chance to obtain knowledge of the Transcendence. Brahminical culture means truthfulness, controlling the senses, forbearance, simplicity, full knowledge, full faith in God—and not to become simply proud of one’s high parentage. To be the son of a brahmin is a chance to become a brahmin, just as being the son of a big man is a chance to become a big man. But such a birthright is not everything, because one still has to attain the brahminical qualifications for himself. As soon as one becomes proud of his birth as the son of a brahmin and neglects to acquire the qualifications of a real brahmin, he at once becomes degraded and drawn from the path of self realization, and his life-mission as a human being is defeated.
In The Bhagavad Gita it is assured us by the Lord that the “Yogabhrastas,” or souls fallen from the path of self realization, are given a chance for rectification by taking birth either in the families of good brahmins, or in the families of rich merchants. These are the higher chances for self realization: to become a rich man’s son, or to become the son of a good brahmin. And if these chances are misused by the illusioned human being, the result is that such a man loses the good chance of human life offered by the Almighty Lord.
The regulative principles are such that one who follows them is promoted from the plane of fruitive activities to the plane of transcendental knowledge, and from transcendental knowledge he becomes perfect, after many, many births, when he surrenders unto the Lord. This is the general procedure. But one who surrenders at the very beginning, as is mentioned in this mantra, at once surpasses all the stages of progression by simple adoption of the devotional attitude. As is stated in The Gita, the Lord at once takes charge of such a surrendered soul and makes him free from all the reactions to his sinful acts. In the Karmakanda activities there are many sinful actions, and in “Jnanakanda,” the path of philosophical development, the number of such actions is less. But in devotional service to the Lord, the path of “Bhakti,” there is practically no chance of sinful reactions. One who is a devotee of the Lord attains all the good qualifications of the Lord Himself, not to mention becoming a brahmin. A devotee automatically attains the qualifications of an expert brahmin authorized to perform sacrifices, even though such a devotee may not have taken his birth in the family of a brahmin. Such is the omnipotence of the Lord that He can make a man born in the family of a brahmin as degraded as a lowborn dogeater, and He can also make a lowborn dog-eater more than a qualified brahmin, simply on the strength of devotional service .
The omnipotent Lord, being situated within the heart of everyone, can give directions to His sincere devotee as to the right path. Such directions are especially offered to the devotee, even if he desires something else. For others God gives sanction to the doer only at the risk of the doer, but in the case of a devotee the Lord directs him in such a way that he never acts wrongly. In the Srimad Bhagwatam it is said that the Lord is so kind upon His devotee that, even though he sometimes falls into the entanglement of Vikarma—acts against the directions of the Vedas—the Lord at once rectifies the mistakes of the devotee from within his heart, because such devotees are very dear to the Lord.
Here in this mantra the devotee prays to the Lord to rectify him from within his heart. To err is human: A conditioned soul is very often apt to commit mistakes, and the only remedial measure for such unknown sins is to give oneself up to the Lotus Feet of the Lord, so that He may guide the devotee. The Lord takes this charge for the fully surrendered souls, and thus all problems are solved simply by surrendering oneself unto the Lord and acting in terms of the Lord’s directions. Such directions are given to the sincere devotee in two ways. One is by means of the saints, scriptures, and spiritual master; and the other is by the Lord Himself, residing within the heart of everyone. Thus the devotee is protected in all respects.
The Vedic knowledge is transcendental and it cannot be understood simply by mundane educational procedures. One can understand the Vedic mantras only by the grace of the Lord and the spiritual master. If one takes shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, it is to be understood that he has obtained the grace of the Lord. The Lord appears as the spiritual master for the devotee. And so the spiritual master, the Vedic injunctions, and the Lord Himself from within all guide the devotee in full strength, and there is no chance of such a devotee falling again into the mire of material illusion. The devotee, thus protected all round, is sure to reach the ultimate destination of perfection. The whole process is hinted at in this mantra of Sri Ishopanishad, and the Srimad Bhagwatam still further explains this.
Hearing and chanting of the glories of the Lord are themselves acts of piety. The Lord wants everyone to do this, because He is the Well-wisher of all living entities. And by practicing this hearing and chanting of the glories of the Lord, one becomes cleansed of all undesirable things within himself. His devotion becomes fixed upon the Lord. At this stage the devotee acquires the brahminical qualifications, and the resultant reactions of lower qualities become completely vanished. He becomes fully enlightened by such devotional service and thus knows the path of the Lord and how to attain Him. All doubts become diminished, and he becomes a pure devotee.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to Sri Ishopanishad, in the matter of realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.