yasmin sarvani bhutany
tatra ko mohah kah soka
yasmin — in the situation; sarvani — all; bhutani — living entities; atma — the cit-kana, or spiritual spark; eva — only; abhut — exist as; vijanatah — of one who knows; tatra — therein; kah — what; mohah — illusion; kah — what; sokah — anxiety; ekatvam — oneness in quality; anupasyatah — of one who sees through authority, or one who sees constantly like that.
One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?
Except for the madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari discussed above, no one can correctly see the spiritual position of a living being. The living entities are qualitatively one with the Supreme Lord, just as the sparks of a fire are qualitatively one with the fire. Yet sparks are not fire as far as quantity is concerned, for the quantity of heat and light present in the sparks is not equal to that in fire. The maha-bhagavata, the great devotee, sees oneness in the sense that he sees everything as the energy of the Supreme Lord. Since there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, there is the sense of oneness. Although from the analytical point of view heat and light are different from fire, there is no meaning to the word “fire” without heat and light. In synthesis, therefore, heat, light and fire are the same.
In this mantra the words ekatvam anupasyatah indicate that one should see the unity of all living entities from the viewpoint of the revealed scriptures. The individual sparks of the supreme whole (the Lord) possess almost eighty percent of the known qualities of the whole, but they are not quantitatively equal to the Supreme Lord. These qualities are present in minute quantity, for the living entity is but a minute part and parcel of the supreme whole. To use another analogy, the quantity of salt present in a drop is never comparable to the quantity of salt present in the complete ocean, but the salt present in the drop is qualitatively equal in chemical composition to all the salt present in the ocean. If the individual living being were equal to the Supreme Lord both qualitatively and quantitatively, there would be no question of his being under the influence of the material energy. In the previous mantras it has already been discussed that no living being — not even the powerful demigods — can surpass the Supreme Being in any respect. Therefore ekatvam does not mean that a living being is equal in all respects to the Supreme Lord. It does, however, indicate that in a broader sense there is one interest, just as in a family the interest of all members is one, or in a nation the national interest is one, although there are many different individual citizens. Since the living entities are all members of the same supreme family, their interest and that of the Supreme Being are not different. Every living being is the son of the Supreme Being. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.5), all living creatures throughout the universe — including birds, reptiles, ants, aquatics, trees and so on — are emanations of the marginal potency of the Supreme Lord. Therefore all of them belong to the family of the Supreme Being. There is no clash of interest.
The spiritual entities are meant for enjoyment, as stated in the Vedanta-sutra (1.1.12): ananda-mayo ‘bhyasat. By nature and constitution, every living being — including the Supreme Lord and each of His parts and parcels — is meant for eternal enjoyment. The living beings who are encaged in the material tabernacle are constantly seeking enjoyment, but they are seeking it on the wrong platform. Apart from the material platform is the spiritual platform, where the Supreme Being enjoys Himself with His innumerable associates. On that platform there is no trace of material qualities, and therefore that platform is called nirguna. On the nirguna platform there is never a clash over the object of enjoyment. Here in the material world there is always a clash between different individual beings because here the proper center of enjoyment is missed. The real center of enjoyment is the Supreme Lord, who is the center of the sublime and spiritual rasa dance. We are all meant to join Him and enjoy life with one transcendental interest and without any clash. That is the highest platform of spiritual interest, and as soon as one realizes this perfect form of oneness, there can be no question of illusion (moha) or lamentation (soka).
A godless civilization arises from illusion, and the result of such a civilization is lamentation. A godless civilization, such as that sponsored by the modern politicians, is always full of anxieties because it may be crushed at any moment. That is the law of nature. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.14), no one but those who surrender at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord can surpass the stringent laws of nature. Thus if we wish to get rid of all sorts of illusion and anxiety and create unity out of all diverse interests, we must bring God into all our activities.
The results of our activities must be used to serve the interest of the Lord, and not for any other purpose. Only by serving the Lord’s interest can we perceive the atma-bhuta interest mentioned herein. The atma-bhuta interest mentioned in this mantra and the brahma-bhuta interest mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita (18.54) are one and the same. The supreme atma, or soul, is the Lord Himself, and the minute atma is the living entity. The supreme atma, or Paramatma, alone maintains all the individual minute beings, for the Supreme Lord wants to derive pleasure out of their affection. The father extends himself through his children and maintains them in order to derive pleasure. If the children obey the father’s will, family affairs will run smoothly, with one interest and a pleasing atmosphere. The same situation is transcendentally arranged in the absolute family of the Parabrahman, the Supreme Spirit.
The Parabrahman is as much a person as the individual entities. Neither the Lord nor the living entities are impersonal. Such transcendental personalities are full of transcendental bliss, knowledge and life eternal. That is the real position of spiritual existence, and as soon as one is fully cognizant of this transcendental position, he at once surrenders unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Being, Sri Krsna. But such a mahatma, or great soul, is very rarely seen because such transcendental realization is achieved only after many, many births. Once it is attained, however, there is no longer any illusion or lamentation or the miseries of material existence or birth and death, which are all experienced in our present life. That is the information we get from this mantra of Sri Isopanisad.
sa paryagac chukram akayam avranam
asnaviram suddham apapa-viddham
kavir manisi paribhuh svayambhur
yathatathyato ‘rthan vyadadhac chasvatibhyah samabhyah
sah — that person; paryagat — must know in fact; sukram — the omnipotent; akayam — unembodied; avranam — without reproach; asnaviram — without veins; suddham — antiseptic; apapa-viddham — prophylactic; kavih — omniscient; manisi — philosopher; paribhuh — the greatest of all; svayambhuh — self-sufficient; yathatathyatah — just in pursuance of; arthan — desirables; vyadadhat — awards; sasvatibhyah — immemorial; samabhyah — time.
Such a person must factually know the greatest of all, the Personality of Godhead, who is unembodied, omniscient, beyond reproach, without veins, pure and uncontaminated, the self-sufficient philosopher who has been fulfilling everyone’s desire since time immemorial.
Here is a description of the transcendental and eternal form of the Absolute Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Lord is not formless. He has His own transcendental form, which is not at all similar to the forms of the mundane world. The forms of the living entities in this world are embodied in material nature, and they work like any material machine. The anatomy of a material body must have a mechanical construction with veins and so forth, but the transcendental body of the Supreme Lord has nothing like veins. It is clearly stated here that He is un-embodied, which means that there is no difference between His body and His soul. Nor is He forced to accept a body according to the laws of nature, as we are. In materially conditioned life, the soul is different from the gross embodiment and subtle mind. For the Supreme Lord, however, there is never any such difference between Him and His body and mind. He is the Complete Whole, and His mind, body and He Himself are all one and the same.
In the Brahma-samhita (5.1) there is a similar description of the Supreme Lord. He is described there as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, which means that He is the eternal form fully representing transcendental existence, knowledge and bliss. As such, He does not require a separate body or mind, as we do in material existence. The Vedic literature clearly states that the Lord’s transcendental body is completely different from ours; thus He is sometimes described as formless. This means that He has no form like ours and that He is devoid of a form we can conceive of. In the Brahma-samhita (5.32) it is further stated that with each and every part of His body He can do the work of the other senses. This means that the Lord can walk with His hands, accept things with His legs, see with His hands and feet, eat with His eyes, etc. In the sruti-mantras it is also said that although the Lord has no hands and legs like ours, He has a different type of hands and legs, by which He can accept all that we offer Him and run faster than anyone. These points are confirmed in this eighth mantra through the use of words like sukram (“omnipotent”).
The Lord’s worshipable form (arca-vigraha), which is installed in temples by authorized acaryas who have realized the Lord in terms of Mantra Seven, is nondifferent from the original form of the Lord. The Lord’s original form is that of Sri Krsna, and Sri Krsna expands Himself into an unlimited number of forms, such as Baladeva, Rama, Nrsimha and Varaha. All of these forms are one and the same Personality of Godhead. Similarly, the arca-vigraha worshiped in temples is also an expanded form of the Lord. By worshiping the arca-vigraha, one can at once approach the Lord, who accepts the service of a devotee by His omnipotent energy. The arca-vigraha of the Lord descends at the request of the acaryas, the holy teachers, and works exactly in the original way of the Lord by virtue of the Lord’s omnipotence. Foolish people who have no knowledge of Sri Isopanisad or any of the other sruti-mantras consider the arca-vigraha, which is worshiped by pure devotees, to be made of material elements. This form may be seen as material by the imperfect eyes of foolish people or kanistha-adhikaris, but such people do not know that the Lord, being omnipotent and omniscient, can transform matter into spirit and spirit into matter, as He desires.
In the Bhagavad-gita (9.11-12) the Lord regrets the fallen condition of men with little knowledge who deride Him because He descends like a man into this world. Such poorly informed persons do not know the omnipotence of the Lord. Thus the Lord does not manifest Himself in full to the mental speculators. He can be appreciated only in proportion to one’s surrender to Him. The fallen condition of the living entities is due entirely to forgetfulness of their relationship with God.
In this mantra, as well as in many other Vedic mantras, it is clearly stated that the Lord has been supplying goods to the living entities from time immemorial. A living being desires something, and the Lord supplies the object of that desire in proportion to one’s qualification. If a man wants to be a high-court judge, he must acquire not only the necessary qualifications but also the consent of the authority who can award the title of high-court judge. The qualifications in themselves are insufficient for one to occupy the post: it must be awarded by some superior authority. Similarly, the Lord awards enjoyment to living entities in proportion to their qualifications, but good qualifications in themselves are not sufficient to enable one to receive awards. The mercy of the Lord is also required.
Ordinarily the living being does not know what to ask from the Lord, nor which post to seek. When the living being comes to know his constitutional position, however, he asks to be accepted into the transcendental association of the Lord in order to render transcendental loving service unto Him. Unfortunately, living beings under the influence of material nature ask for many other things, and they are described in the Bhagavad-gita (2.41) as having divided, or splayed, intelligence. Spiritual intelligence is one, but mundane intelligence is diverse. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.30-31) it is stated that those who are captivated by the temporary beauties of the external energy forget the real aim of life, which is to go back to Godhead. Forgetting this, one tries to adjust things by various plans and programs, but this is like chewing what has already been chewed. Nonetheless, the Lord is so kind that He allows the forgetful living entity to continue in this way without interference. Thus this mantra of Sri Isopanisad uses the very appropriate word yathatathyatah, indicating that the Lord rewards the living entities just in pursuance of their desires. If a living being wants to go to hell, the Lord allows him to do so without interference, and if he wants to go back home, back to Godhead, the Lord helps him.
God is described here as paribhuh, the greatest of all. No one is greater than or equal to Him. Other living beings are described here as beggars who ask goods from the Lord. The Lord supplies the things the living entities desire. If the entities were equal to the Lord in potency — if they were omnipotent and omniscient — there would be no question of their begging from the Lord, even for so-called liberation. Real liberation means going back to Godhead. Liberation as conceived of by an impersonalist is a myth, and begging for sense gratification has to continue eternally unless the beggar comes to his spiritual senses and realizes his constitutional position.
Only the Supreme Lord is self-sufficient. When Lord Krsna appeared on earth five thousand years ago, He displayed His full manifestation as the Personality of Godhead through His various activities. In His childhood He killed many powerful demons, such as Aghasura, Bakasura and Sakatasura, and there was no question of His having acquired such power through any extraneous endeavor. He lifted Govardhana Hill without ever practicing weight-lifting. He danced with the gopis without social restriction and without reproach. Although the gopis approached Him with a paramour’s feelings of love, the relationship between the gopis and Lord Krsna was worshiped even by Lord Caitanya, who was a strict sannyasi and rigid follower of disciplinary regulations. To confirm that the Lord is always pure and uncontaminated, Sri Isopanisad describes Him as suddham (antiseptic) and apapa-viddham (prophylactic). He is antiseptic in the sense that even an impure thing can become purified just by touching Him. The word “prophylactic” refers to the power of His association. As mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita (9.30-31), a devotee may appear to be su-duracara, not well behaved, in the beginning, but he should be accepted as pure because he is on the right path. This is due to the prophylactic nature of the Lord’s association. The Lord is also apapa-viddham because sin cannot touch Him. Even if He acts in a way that appears to be sinful, such actions are all-good, for there is no question of His being affected by sin. Because in all circumstances He is suddham, most purified, He is often compared to the sun. The sun extracts moisture from many untouchable places on the earth, yet it remains pure. In fact, it purifies obnoxious things by virtue of its sterilizing powers. If the sun, which is a material object, is so powerful, then we can hardly begin to imagine the purifying strength of the all-powerful Lord.
andham tamah pravisanti
ye ‘vidyam upasate
tato bhuya iva te tamo
ya u vidyayam ratah
andham — gross ignorance; tamah — darkness; pravisanti — enter into; ye — those who; avidyam — nescience; upasate — worship; tatah — than that; bhuyah — still more; iva — like; te — they; tamah — darkness; ye — those who; u — also; vidyayam — in the culture of knowledge; ratah — engaged.
Those who engage in the culture of nescient activities shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged in the culture of so-called knowledge.
This mantra offers a comparative study of vidya and avidya. Avidya, or ignorance, is undoubtedly dangerous, but vidya, or knowledge, is even more dangerous when mistaken or misguided. This mantra of Sri Isopanisad is more applicable today than at any time in the past. Modern civilization has advanced considerably in the field of mass education, but the result is that people are more unhappy than ever before because of the stress placed on material advancement to the exclusion of the most important part of life, the spiritual aspect.
As far as vidya is concerned, the first mantra has explained very clearly that the Supreme Lord is the proprietor of everything and that forgetfulness of this fact is ignorance. The more a man forgets this fact of life, the more he is in darkness. In view of this, a godless civilization directed toward the so-called advancement of education is more dangerous than a civilization in which the masses of people are less “educated.”
Of the different classes of men — karmis, jnanis and yogis — the karmis are those who are engaged in the activities of sense gratification. In the modern civilization, 99.9 percent of the people are engaged in the activities of sense gratification under the flags of industrialism, economic development, altruism, political activism, and so on. All these activities are more or less based on satisfaction of the senses, to the exclusion of the kind of God consciousness described in the first mantra.
In the language of the Bhagavad-gita (7.15), people who are engaged in gross sense gratification are mudhas — asses. The ass is a symbol of stupidity. Those who simply engage in the profitless pursuit of sense gratification are worshiping avidya, according to Sri Isopanisad. And those who play the role of helping this sort of civilization in the name of educational advancement are actually doing more harm than those who are on the platform of gross sense gratification. The advancement of learning by a godless people is as dangerous as a valuable jewel on the hood of a cobra. A cobra decorated with a valuable jewel is more dangerous than one not decorated. In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (3.11.12), the advancement of education by a godless people is compared to decorations on a dead body. In India, as in many other countries, some people follow the custom of leading a procession with a decorated dead body for the pleasure of the lamenting relatives. In the same way, modern civilization is a patchwork of activities meant to cover the perpetual miseries of material existence. All such activities are aimed toward sense gratification. But above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. Thus the aim of real education should be self-realization, realization of the spiritual values of the soul. Any education which does not lead to such realization must be considered avidya, or nescience. And to culture such nescience means to go down to the darkest region of ignorance.
According to the Bhagavad-gita (2.42, 7.15), mistaken mundane educators are known as veda-vada-rata and mayayapahrta-jnana. They may also be atheistic demons, the lowest of men. Those who are veda-vada-rata pose themselves as very learned in the Vedic literature, but unfortunately they are completely diverted from the purpose of the Vedas. In the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) it is said that the purpose of the Vedas is to know the Personality of Godhead, but these veda-vada-rata men are not at all interested in the Personality of Godhead. On the contrary, they are fascinated by such fruitive results as the attainment of heaven.
As stated in Mantra One, we should know that the Personality of Godhead is the proprietor of everything and that we must be satisfied with our allotted portions of the necessities of life. The purpose of all Vedic literature is to awaken this God consciousness in the forgetful living being, and this same purpose is presented in various ways in the different scriptures of the world for the understanding of a foolish mankind. Thus the ultimate purpose of all religions is to bring one back to Godhead.
But the veda-vada-rata people, instead of realizing that the purpose of the Vedas is to revive the forgetful soul’s lost relationship with the Personality of Godhead, take it for granted that such side issues as the attainment of heavenly pleasure for sense gratification — the lust for which causes their material bondage in the first place — are the ultimate end of the Vedas. Such people misguide others by misinterpreting the Vedic literature. Sometimes they even condemn the Puranas, which are authentic Vedic explanations for laymen. The veda-vada-ratas give their own explanations of the Vedas, neglecting the authority of great teachers (acaryas). They also tend to raise some unscrupulous person from among themselves and present him as the leading exponent of Vedic knowledge. Such veda-vada-ratas are especially condemned in this mantra by the very appropriate Sanskrit words vidyayam ratah. Vidyayam refers to the study of the Vedas because the Vedas are the origin of all knowledge (vidya), and ratah means “those engaged.” Vidyayam ratah thus means “those engaged in the study of the Vedas.” The so-called students of the Vedas are condemned herein because they are ignorant of the actual purpose of the Vedas on account of their disobeying the acaryas. Such veda-vada-ratas search out meanings in every word of the Vedas to suit their own purposes. They do not know that the Vedic literature is a collection of extraordinary books that can be understood only through the chain of disciplic succession.
One must approach a bona fide spiritual master in order to understand the transcendental message of the Vedas. That is the direction of the Mundaka Upanisad (1.2.12). These veda-vada-rata people, however, have their own acaryas, who are not in the chain of transcendental succession. Thus they progress into the darkest region of ignorance by misinterpreting the Vedic literature. They fall even further into ignorance than those who have no knowledge of the Vedas at all.
The mayayapahrta-jnana class of men are self-made “Gods.” Such men think that they themselves are God and that there is no need of worshiping any other God. They will agree to worship an ordinary man if he happens to be rich, but they will never worship the Personality of Godhead. Such men, unable to recognize their own foolishness, never consider how it is that God can be entrapped by maya, His own illusory energy. If God were ever entrapped by maya, maya would be more powerful than God. Such men say that God is all-powerful, but they do not consider that if He is all-powerful there is no possibility of His being overpowered by maya. These self-made “Gods” cannot answer all these questions very clearly; they are simply satisfied to have become “God” themselves.
anyad evahur vidyaya-
nyad ahur avidyaya
iti susruma dhiranam
ye nas tad vicacaksire
anyat — different; eva — certainly; ahuh — said; vid-yaya — by culture of knowledge; anyat — different; ahuh — said; avidyaya — by culture of nescience; iti — thus; susruma — I heard; dhiranam — from the sober; ye — who; nah — to us; tat — that; vicacaksire — explained.
The wise have explained that one result is derived from the culture of knowledge and that a different result is obtained from the culture of nescience.
As advised in Chapter Thirteen of the Bhagavad-gita (13.8-12), one should culture knowledge in the following way:
(1) One should become a perfect gentleman and learn to give proper respect to others.
(2) One should not pose himself as a religionist simply for name and fame.
(3) One should not become a source of anxiety to others by the actions of his body, by the thoughts of his mind, or by his words.
(4) One should learn forbearance even in the face of provocation from others.
(5) One should learn to avoid duplicity in his dealings with others.
(6) One should search out a bona fide spiritual master who can lead him gradually to the stage of spiritual realization, and one must submit himself to such a spiritual master, render him service and ask relevant questions.
(7) In order to approach the platform of self-realization, one must follow the regulative principles enjoined in the revealed scriptures.
(8) One must be fixed in the tenets of the revealed scriptures.
(9) One should completely refrain from practices which are detrimental to the interest of self-realization.
(10) One should not accept more than he requires for the maintenance of the body.
(11) One should not falsely identify himself with the gross material body, nor should one consider those who are related to his body to be his own.
(12) One should always remember that as long as he has a material body he must face the miseries of repeated birth, old age, disease and death. There is no use in making plans to get rid of these miseries of the material body. The best course is to find out the means by which one may regain his spiritual identity.
(13) One should not be attached to more than the necessities of life required for spiritual advancement.
(14) One should not be more attached to wife, children and home than the revealed scriptures ordain.
(15) One should not be happy or distressed over desirables and undesirables, knowing that such feelings are just created by the mind.
(16) One should become an unalloyed devotee of the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, and serve Him with rapt attention.
(17) One should develop a liking for residence in a secluded place with a calm and quiet atmosphere favorable for spiritual culture, and one should avoid congested places where nondevotees congregate.
(18) One should become a scientist or philosopher and conduct research into spiritual knowledge, recognizing that spiritual knowledge is permanent whereas material knowledge ends with the death of the body.
These eighteen items combine to form a gradual process by which real knowledge can be developed. Except for these, all other methods are considered to be in the category of nescience. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great acarya, maintained that all forms of material knowledge are merely external features of the illusory energy and that by culturing them one becomes no better than an ass. This same principle is found here in Sri Isopanisad. By advancement of material knowledge, modern man is simply being converted into an ass. Some materialistic politicians in spiritual guise decry the present system of civilization as satanic, but unfortunately they do not care about the culture of real knowledge as it is described in the Bhagavad-gita. Thus they cannot change the satanic situation.
In the modern society, even a boy thinks himself self-sufficient and pays no respect to elderly men. Due to the wrong type of education being imparted in our universities, boys all over the world are giving their elders headaches. Thus Sri Isopanisad very strongly warns that the culture of nescience is different from that of knowledge. The universities are, so to speak, centers of nescience only; consequently scientists are busy discovering lethal weapons to wipe out the existence of other countries. University students today are not given instructions in the regulative principles of brahmacarya (celibate student life), nor do they have any faith in any scriptural injunctions. Religious principles are taught for the sake of name and fame only and not for the sake of practical action. Thus there is animosity not only in social and political fields but in the field of religion as well.
Nationalism has developed in different parts of the world due to the cultivation of nescience by the general people. No one considers that this tiny earth is just a lump of matter floating in immeasurable space along with many other lumps. In comparison to the vastness of space, these material lumps are like dust particles in the air. Because God has kindly made these lumps of matter complete in themselves, they are perfectly equipped with all necessities for floating in space. The drivers of our spaceships may be very proud of their achievements, but they do not consider the supreme driver of these greater, more gigantic spaceships called planets.
There are innumerable suns and innumerable planetary systems also. As infinitesimal parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord, we small creatures are trying to dominate these unlimited planets. Thus we take repeated birth and death and are generally frustrated by old age and disease. The span of human life is scheduled for about a hundred years, although it is gradually decreasing to twenty or thirty years. Thanks to the culture of nescience, befooled men have created their own nations within these planets in order to grasp sense enjoyment more effectively for these few years. Such foolish people draw up various plans to render national demarcations perfectly, a task that is totally impossible. Yet for this purpose each and every nation has become a source of anxiety for others. More than fifty percent of a nation’s energy is devoted to defense measures and thus spoiled. No one cares for the cultivation of real knowledge, yet people are falsely proud of being advanced in both material and spiritual knowledge.
Sri Isopanisad warns us of this faulty type of education, and the Bhagavad-gita gives instructions as to the development of real knowledge. This mantra states that the instructions of vidya (knowledge) must be acquired from a dhira. A dhira is one who is not disturbed by material illusion. No one can be undisturbed unless he is perfectly spiritually realized, at which time one neither hankers nor laments for anything. A dhira realizes that the material body and mind he has acquired by chance through material association are but foreign elements; therefore he simply makes the best use of a bad bargain.
The material body and mind are bad bargains for the spiritual living entity. The living entity has actual functions in the living, spiritual world, but this material world is dead. As long as the living spiritual sparks manipulate the dead lumps of matter, the dead world appears to be a living world. Actually it is the living souls, the parts and parcels of the supreme living being, who move the world. The dhiras have come to know all these facts by hearing them from superior authorities and have realized this knowledge by following the regulative principles.
To follow the regulative principles, one must take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. The transcendental message and regulative principles come down from the spiritual master to the disciple. Such knowledge does not come in the hazardous way of nescient education. One can become a dhira only by submissively hearing from a bona fide spiritual master. Arjuna, for example, became a dhira by submissively hearing from Lord Krsna, the Personality of Godhead Himself. Thus the perfect disciple must be like Arjuna, and the spiritual master must be as good as the Lord Himself. This is the process of learning vidya (knowledge) from the dhira (the undisturbed).
An adhira (one who has not undergone the training of a dhira) cannot be an instructive leader. Modern politicians who pose themselves as dhiras are actually adhiras, and one cannot expect perfect knowledge from them. They are simply busy seeing to their own remuneration in dollars and cents. How, then, can they lead the mass of people to the right path of self-realization? Thus one must hear submissively from a dhira in order to attain actual education.
vidyam cavidyam ca yas
tad vedobhayam saha
avidyaya mrtyum tirtva
vidyam — knowledge in fact; ca — and; avidyam — nescience; ca — and; yah — a person who; tat — that; veda — knows; ubhayam — both; saha — simultaneously; avidyaya — by culture of nescience; mrtyum — repeated death; tirtva — transcending; vidyaya — by culture of knowledge; amrtam — deathlessness; asnute — enjoys.
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 creation of the material world, everyone has been trying to attain a permanent life, but the laws of nature are so cruel that no one has been able to avoid the hand of death. No one wants to die, nor does anyone want to become old or diseased. The law of nature, however, does not allow anyone immunity from old age, disease or death. Nor has the advancement of material knowledge solved these problems. Material science can discover the nuclear bomb to accelerate the process of death, but it cannot discover anything that can protect man from the cruel hands of old age, disease and death.
From the Puranas we learn of the activities of Hiranyakasipu, a king who was very much advanced materially. Wanting to conquer cruel death by his material acquisitions and the strength of his nescience, he underwent a type of meditation so severe that the inhabitants of all the planetary systems became disturbed by his mystic powers. He forced the creator of the universe, the demigod Brahma, to come down to him. He then asked Brahma for the benediction of becoming amara, by which one does not die. Brahma said that he could not award the benediction because even he, the material creator who rules all planets, is not amara. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (8.17), Brahma lives a long time, but that does not mean he is immortal.
Hiranya means “gold,” and kasipu means “soft bed.” This cunning gentleman Hiranyakasipu was interested in these two things — money and women — and he wanted to enjoy them by becoming immortal. He asked from Brahma many benedictions in hopes of indirectly fulfilling his desire to become immortal. Since Brahma told him that he could not grant the gift of immortality, Hiranyakasipu requested that he not be killed by any man, animal, god or any other living being within the 8,400,000 species. He also asked that he not die on land, in the air or water, or by any weapon. In this way Hiranyakasipu foolishly thought these guarantees would save him from death. Ultimately, however, although Brahma granted him all these benedictions, he was killed by the Personality of Godhead in the form of Nrsimha, the Lord’s half-lion, half-man incarnation, and no weapon was used to kill him, for he was killed by the Lord’s nails. Nor was he killed on the land, in the air or in the water, for he was killed on the lap of that wonderful living being, Nrsimha, who was beyond his conception.
The whole point here is that even Hiranyakasipu, the most powerful of materialists, could not become deathless by his various plans. What, then, can be accomplished by the tiny Hiranyakasipus of today, whose plans are thwarted from moment to moment?
Sri Isopanisad instructs us not to make one-sided attempts to win the struggle for existence. Everyone is struggling hard for existence, but the laws of material nature are so hard and fast that they do not allow anyone to surpass them. In order to attain a permanent life, one must be prepared to go back to Godhead.
The process by which one goes back to Godhead is a different branch of knowledge, and it has to be learned from revealed Vedic scriptures such as the Upanisads, Vedanta-sutra, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. To become happy in this life and attain a permanent blissful life after leaving this material body, one must study this sacred literature and obtain transcendental knowledge. The conditioned living being has forgotten his eternal relationship with God and has mistakenly accepted the temporary place of his 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 be happy only by returning to his spiritual home.
From His kingdom the Personality of Godhead sends His bona fide servants to propagate this message by which one can return to Godhead, and sometimes the Lord comes Himself to do this work. Since all living beings are His beloved sons, His parts and parcels, God is more sorry than we ourselves to see the sufferings we are constantly undergoing in this material condition. The miseries of this material world serve to indirectly remind us of our incompatibility with dead matter. Intelligent living entities generally take note of these reminders and engage themselves in the culture of vidya, or transcendental knowledge. Human life is the best opportunity for the culture of spiritual knowledge, and a human being who does not take advantage of this opportunity is called a naradhama, the lowest of human beings.
The path of avidya, or advancement of material knowledge for sense gratification, is the path of repeated birth and death. As he exists spiritually, the living entity has no birth or death. Birth and death apply to the outward covering of the spirit soul, the body. Death is compared to the taking off and birth to the putting on of outward garments. Foolish human beings who are grossly absorbed in the culture of avidya, nescience, do not mind this cruel process. Enamored with the beauty of the illusory energy, they undergo the same miseries repeatedly and do not learn any lessons from the laws of nature.
Therefore the culture of vidya, or transcendental knowledge, is essential for the human being. Sense enjoyment in the diseased material condition 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 materially manifested, being covered by the material body and mind. The activities of the material senses are perverted reflections of the activities of the original, spiritual senses. In his diseased condition, the spirit soul engages in material activities under the material covering. Real sense enjoyment is possible only when the disease of materialism is removed. In our pure spiritual form, free from all material contamination, real enjoyment of the senses is possible. A patient must regain his health before he can truly enjoy sense pleasure again. Thus the aim of human life should not be to enjoy perverted sense enjoyment but to cure the material disease. Aggravation of the material disease is no sign of knowledge, but a sign of avidya, ignorance. For good health, a person should not increase his fever from 105 degrees to 107 degrees but should reduce his temperature to the normal 98.6. That should be the aim of human life. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the temperature of the feverish material condition, which has reached the point of 107 degrees in the form of atomic energy. Meanwhile, the foolish politicians are crying that at any moment the world may go to hell. That is the result of the advancement of material knowledge and the neglect of the most important part of life, the culture of spiritual knowledge. Sri Isopanisad herein warns that we must not follow this dangerous path leading to death. On the contrary, we must 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 activities for the maintenance of the body should be stopped. There is no question of stopping activities, just as there is no question of wiping out one’s temperature altogether when trying to recover from a disease. “To make the best use of a bad bargain” is the appropriate expression. The culture of spiritual knowledge necessitates the help of the body and mind; 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, and the great sages and saints of India have attempted to do this by a balanced program of spiritual and material knowledge. They never allow the misuse of human intelligence for diseased sense gratification.
Human activities diseased by a tendency toward sense gratification have been regulated in the Vedas under the principles of salvation. This system employs religion, economic development, sense gratification and salvation, but at the present moment people have no interest in religion or salvation. They have only one aim in life — sense gratification — and in order to achieve this end they make plans for economic development. Misguided men think that religion should be maintained because it contributes to economic development, which is required for sense gratification. Thus in order to guarantee further sense gratification after death, in heaven, there is some system of religious observance. But this is not the purpose of religion. The path of religion is actually meant for self-realization, and economic development is required just to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition. A man should lead a healthy 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 culturing avidya for sense gratification.
The path of vidya is most perfectly presented in Srimad-Bhagavatam, which directs a human being to utilize his life to inquire into the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is realized step by step as Brahman, Paramatma and finally Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead. The Absolute Truth is realized by the broadminded man who has attained knowledge and detachment by following the eighteen principles of the Bhagavad-gita described in the purport to Mantra Ten. The central purpose of these eighteen principles is the attainment of transcendental devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Therefore all classes of men are encouraged to learn the art of devotional service to the Lord.
The guaranteed path to the aim of vidya is described by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which we have presented in English as The Nectar of Devotion. The culture of vidya is summarized in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.14) in the following words:
tasmad ekena manasa
bhagavan satvatam patih
srotavyah kirtitavyas ca
dhyeyah pujyas ca nityada
“Therefore, with one-pointed attention one should constantly hear about, glorify, remember and worship the Personality of Godhead, who is the protector of the devotees.”
Unless religion, economic development and sense gratification aim toward the attainment of devotional service to the Lord, they are all simply different forms of nescience, as Sri Isopanisad indicates in the following mantras.
andham tamah pravisanti
ye ‘sambhutim upasate
tato bhuya iva te tamo
ya u sambhutyam ratah
andham — ignorance; tamah — darkness; pravisanti — enter into; ye — those who; asambhutim — demigods; upasate — worship; tatah — than that; bhuyah — still more; iva — like that; te — those; tamah — darkness; ye — who; u — also; sambhutyam — in the Absolute; ratah — engaged.
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 impersonal Absolute.
The Sanskrit word asambhuti refers to those who have no independent existence. Sambhuti is the Absolute Personality of Godhead, who is absolutely independent of everything. In the Bhagavad-gita (10.2), the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, states:
na me viduh sura-gana
prabhavam na maharsayah
aham adir hi devanam
maharsinam ca sarvasah
“Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for in every respect I am the source of the demigods and sages.” Thus Krsna is the origin of the powers delegated to demigods, great sages and mystics. Although they are endowed with great powers, these powers are limited, and thus it is very difficult for them to know how Krsna Himself appears by His own internal potency in the form of a man.
Many philosophers and great rsis, or mystics, try to distinguish the Absolute from the relative by their tiny brain power. This can only help them reach the negative conception of the Absolute without realizing any positive trace of the Absolute. Definition of the Absolute by negation is not complete. Such negative definitions lead one to create a concept of one’s own; thus one imagines that the Absolute must be formless and without qualities. Such negative qualities are simply the reversals of relative, material qualities and are therefore also relative. By conceiving of the Absolute in this way, one can at the utmost reach the impersonal effulgence of God, known as Brahman, but one cannot make further progress to Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead.
Such mental speculators do not know that the Absolute Personality of Godhead is Krsna, that the impersonal Brahman is the glaring effulgence of His transcendental body, or that the Paramatma, the Supersoul, is His all-pervading plenary representation. Nor do they know that Krsna has His eternal form with its transcendental qualities of eternal bliss and knowledge. The dependent demigods and great sages imperfectly consider Him to be a powerful demigod, and they consider the Brahman effulgence to be the Absolute Truth. But the devotees of Krsna, by dint of their surrendering unto Him and their unalloyed devotion, can know that He is the Absolute Person and that everything emanates from Him. Such devotees continuously render loving service unto Krsna, the fountainhead of everything.
In the Bhagavad-gita (7.20, 23) it is said that only unintelligent, bewildered persons driven by a strong desire for sense gratification worship the demigods for the temporary relief of temporary problems. Since the living being is materially entangled, he has to be relieved from material bondage entirely to attain permanent relief on the spiritual plane, where eternal bliss, life and knowledge exist. Sri Isopanisad therefore instructs that we should not seek temporary relief of our difficulties by worshiping the dependent demigods, who can bestow only temporary benefit. Rather, we must worship the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Krsna, who is all-attractive and who can bestow upon us complete freedom from material bondage by taking us back home, back to Godhead.
It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.23) that the worshipers of the demigods can go to the planets of the demigods. The moon worshipers can go to the moon, the sun worshipers to the sun, etc. Modern scientists are now venturing to the moon with the help of rockets, but this is not really a new attempt. With their advanced consciousness, human beings are naturally inclined to travel in outer space and to reach other planets, either by spaceships, mystic powers or demigod worship. In the Vedic scriptures it is said that one can reach other planets by any one of these three ways, but the most common way is by worshiping the demigod presiding over a particular planet. In this way one can reach the moon planet, the sun planet and even Brahmaloka, the topmost planet in this universe. However, all planets in the material universe are temporary residences; the only permanent planets are the Vaikunthalokas. These are found in the spiritual sky, where the Personality of Godhead Himself predominates. As Lord Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita (8.16):
punar avartino ‘rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.”
Sri Isopanisad points out that one who worships the demigods and attains to their material planets still remains in the darkest region of the universe. The whole universe is covered by the gigantic material elements; it is just like a coconut covered by a shell and half-filled with water. Since its covering is airtight, the darkness within is dense, and therefore the sun and the moon are required for illumination. Outside the universe is the vast and unlimited brahmajyoti expansion, which is filled with Vaikunthalokas. The biggest and highest planet in the brahmajyoti is Krsnaloka, or Goloka Vrndavana, where the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna Himself, resides. Lord Sri Krsna never leaves Krsnaloka. Although He dwells there with His eternal associates, He is omnipresent throughout the complete material and spiritual cosmic manifestations. This fact has already been explained in Mantra Four. The Lord is present everywhere, just like the sun, yet He is situated in one place, just as the sun is situated in its own undeviating orbit.
The problems of life cannot be solved simply by going to the moon planet or to some other planet above or below it. Therefore Sri Isopanisad advises us not to bother with any destination within this dark material universe, but to try to get out of it and reach the effulgent kingdom of God. There are many pseudo worshipers who become religionists only for the sake of name and fame. Such pseudo religionists do not wish to get out of this universe and reach the spiritual sky. They only want to maintain the status quo in the material world under the garb of worshiping the Lord. The atheists and 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 impersonalists support the atheists by stressing the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord. Thus far we have not come across any mantra in Sri Isopanisad in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is denied. It is said that He can run faster than anyone. Those who are running after other planets are certainly persons, and if the Lord can run faster than all of them, how can He be impersonal? The impersonal conception of the Supreme Lord is another form of ignorance, arising from an imperfect conception of the Absolute Truth.
The ignorant pseudo religionists and the manufacturers of so-called incarnations who directly violate the Vedic injunctions are liable to enter into the darkest region of the universe because they mislead those who follow them. These impersonalists generally pose themselves as incarnations of God to foolish persons who have no knowledge of Vedic wisdom. 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 according to the scriptural recommendations. In the scriptures there are recommendations for worshiping demigods under certain circumstances, but at the same time these scriptures state that there is normally no need for this. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.23) it is clearly stated that the results derived from worshiping the demigods are not permanent. Since the entire material universe is impermanent, whatever is achieved within the darkness of material existence is also impermanent. The question 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 — one attains complete freedom from the bondage of birth and death. In other words, the path of salvation from the material clutches fully depends on the principles of knowledge and detachment gained from serving the Lord. The pseudo religionists have neither knowledge nor detachment from material affairs, for most of them want to live in the golden shackles of material bondage under the shadow of philanthropic activities disguised as religious principles. By a false display of religious sentiments, they present a show of devotional service while indulging in all sorts of immoral activities. In this way they pass as spiritual masters and devotees of God. Such violators of religious principles have no respect for the authoritative acaryas, the holy teachers in the strict disciplic succession. They ignore the Vedic injunction acaryopasana — “One must worship the acarya” — and Krsna’s statement in the Bhagavad-gita (4.2) evam parampara-praptam, “This supreme science of God is received through the disciplic succession.” Instead, to mislead the people in general they themselves become so-called acaryas, but they do not even follow the principles of the acaryas.
These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society. Because there is no religious government, they escape punishment by the law of the state. They cannot, however, escape the law of the Supreme, who has clearly declared in the Bhagavad-gita that envious demons in the garb of religious propagandists shall be thrown into the darkest regions of hell (Bg. 16.19-20). Sri Isopanisad confirms that these pseudo religionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after the completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.
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