Isha Upanishad Verses 5-6

Isha Upanishad Verse 5

The real appears to move
yet never moves.
The real seems far away
yet is ever near.
The real is within all things
and also without.

Commentary by Vimala Thakar

Tad ejati tan naijati tad dure tadv’antike
tad antarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasy’asya bhayatah

There is nothing in life but the divinity. Wholeness has neither inner or outer. It is matter and it is the essence of matter. It is the inner essence of everything and it is also the enveloping cover of everything.

Tad ejati tan naijati tad dure tadv’antike. It moves and it moves not. It is near and it is far at the same time. Physically you cannot be both here and over there at the same time because the body is located in time and space. It is limited by time and space. But your mind can be here and it can be there in a fraction of a second but there is a sequence. You see the body cannot be both here and in another place at the same time. The mind can be, but there’s a subtle difference. You are here and then thought flashes across your consciousness and you are there. But a fraction of time is involved. The mind requires a fraction of a second to travel from here to there because the mind travels through the medium of thought. It travels through ideation, through the picture it creates. But the reality which is potentially there in you, can be both here and there simultaneously.

The experience or sensitivity to the wholeness is potentially there in all human beings. For example it can be felt when you are in love. Love is a state of centrelessness. Love transports you psychically into a centre-free consciousness so that you fall into the wholeness. In love you return to the wholeness and sensitivity of your inner-being. Lover and beloved may be separated across continents yet they both feel the same thing. There is a simultaneousness. A tuning of the soul. The practice of yoga is really the process of tuning the body and mind to make it sensitive.

Tad antarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasy’asya bhayatah. This line can be translated as: It is the inner essence of everything and it is also the enveloping cover of everything. So, the skies, the earth, the emptiness of the space that extends through the entire cosmos is enveloped by the divinity as the reality or ground of existence. It envelops everything. Like an orange it is both there in the flesh inside the fruit, it is in the juice as well as in the covering which is the skin.

How can there be inner and outer in wholeness? A physical body which is located in space and time has an outer part and an inner. But the rishis say that the wholeness has neither inner nor outer. It is both matter and the essence of matter. It is both the water and its liquidity. It is in everything. You cannot find any aspect or layer of the cosmos where the supreme intelligence is not. It is everywhere.

We are cognizant of the thoughts, the likes and the dislikes and the prejudices. All this is the stuff of the thought structure that we inhabit. We have become identified with it to such an extent that our vitality has dried up. The rishi is asking you to step aside for a moment. Leave behind all the limitations and conditionings with which you are oppressed. Become cognizant of the divinity that is within and without. Make some time to become sensitive to it. Turn towards the reality.

Isha Upanishad Verse 6

If you see that all beings are just like you
and you are not different to them –
then you will live in harmony.

Commentary by Vimala Thakar

Yas tu sarvani bhutani atmany’eva anupashyati
sarva bhuteshu c’atmanam tato na vijupsate

The recognition that you share with the whole world materially and biologically the same instincts and impulses, leads you not to have contempt for others.

When you perceive that all objects and creatures are contained in your own biological structure and you are contained in them, then you don’t feel contempt for them. This is the literal meaning of the mantra. Perceiving refers to learning, understanding and discovering. The process of learning is the unfoldment of the being. The urge to learn has nothing to do with the contamination of the ego.

Yas tu sarvani bhutani atmany’eva anupashyati . What is it that is contained in oneself? Let’s look at the word “contained”. A glass contains water. The water is separate from the glass. That is one way of containing. Obviously we do not contain the entire cosmos as the glass contains water. That is not what is meant.

There is another metaphorical way of containing something. We might say that the ocean contains the clouds. The sun shines on the ocean, the water evaporates and then clouds are formed in the sky. In this sense the ocean contains the clouds for they are born of the water in the ocean. One can say the same thing of a seed. The seed contains the tree. You can’t literally see the tree in the seed but in potentia, the tree is there.

So in what sense does the rishi say that all the objects (bhutas), all of which has taken form with solidity, shape and colour is contained in oneself? The physical body contains light, sound and scent. The body is of matter. The bones are of the earth element from the cosmos. The blood contains the water element of the cosmos. The breath contains the principle of fire and the body contains space. So we have the five principles of akasha, vayu, agni, aap and prtithvi. So the body itself contains all of the instincts and impulses. These include the instinct for survival, security, continuity and reproduction. Then there are the natural impulses of hunger, thirst and sleep. All of this is shared on the human plane. So in this way we say poetically, you are contained in them and they are contained in you.

The whole history of the human race is the history of conditioning and cultural refinement. Human beings created their own conceptual world. They created the concept of man and wife, father and mother. The basic impulses are there but they have been enriched by grafting onto them the concepts of human civilization and culture. Humans live both on the perceptual and the conceptual level. The concepts have become blended with the perceptual so that perception without concept is no longer possible. So the raw impulses of nature have been refined, sublimated and sophisticated.

These conditionings have been transmitted through our biological and psychological inheritance from one generation to the next. So we contain the conditionings that are shared by the whole race. So figuratively the human race is one, biologically, instinctively there is unity. You contain the whole and the whole contains you. What this means is that any idea of separation from it all is an illusion.

The word pashyati means perception. The word anupashyali means recognition or seeing again (re-cognizing). So in the first perception there is cognition and in the second perception there is re-cognizing. So first there is the perception or cognizance that there is no separation. On the biological and psychological level all are one family. And so then the re-cognition results in the attitude where there is no contempt or dislike for others. This recognition that you share the same world biologically and you are not fundamentally different leads to peace and harmony with others.

One thing that has always surprised me as I have travelled around the world is that people generally carry very strong likes and dislikes. This makes people psychologically rigid. It is natural to have preferences but when likes and dislikes crystalize into prejudices then the rishis say that you can no longer live comfortably because you have moved away from or fallen out of that intrinsic wholeness. You have fallen out of balance. You have moved out of wholeness and created a centre or a “me” out of your ideas, your theories and your prejudices. You have built a narrow enclosure for yourself.

Preferences and prejudices affect the nervous system of the body. When you dislike someone or something, there is a feeling of bitterness. There is a kind of sourness that arises in the chemistry of the body. The body gets tight and knotted. These become psychic clots that block the free flow of consciousness. So these preferences and prejudices become a psychic contraction. One becomes inhibited and rigid.

sarva bhuteshu c’atmanam tato na vijupsate. The rishis say that when you deeply perceive that you share the whole cosmos then you feel deeply that the cosmos is contained in you and that you are contained in the cosmos. When you recognize that you share the same conditionings with the rest of the human race then you start to see that psychologically, the individual is a fabrication. There is really no such thing as an individual mind. There is an individual body but the reality of an individual mind that is qualitatively different and is in some way special is an illusion. Then there is no possibility for the arising of the kind of contempt or hatred that is based on prejudice.

It does not mean necessarily that you yield to the harshness or injustices perpetrated by others. It means that you do not resist injustice by creating further injustice. You do not add to the hatred. When the rishis say that you do not have contempt or hatred for others (vijugupsate) it does not mean that you surrender to injustice. It means that you do not create the psychic pollution of hatred inside you are a result. You don’t allow the negative energy to fester in your system which will only create blockage and psychic contraction.

The rishis are concerned with healthy relationship because the movement of relationship is the arena of living and the human being cannot avoid acting (karma) in whatever shape or form that may take. One has no choice but to act and therefore one must not become tainted or imbalanced in the process of living which is the activity of relating to others and to situations. You don’t want negativity to become crystalized in the psyche. Just as attachment to things causes you to lose your freedom of action, contempt in the form of dislike or bitterness pollutes your psyche.

So we are the cosmos and the cosmos is us. I am the world and the world is me. The human race needs to come to this recognition. We have not got there yet. But this is the direction that we must go in. The advance of science and technological and material improvement is all very well but if there is no sense of inner peace and harmony it is all worthless. It is a waste of time. If the inner sense of peace, harmony and love for each other and for life as a whole is not there, then what is it all for? The message of the Upanishads is the message of peace and universal love.