Isa Vasya Upanishad

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This is the s’Anti mantram of the Is’A vAsyOpanishat. This is a part pf the vAjasanEya samhita of the s’ukla yajurvEda. This part of the vEdA had no part at all in the karma kAnDa. It is meant only for knowledge of the nature of the brahman.

AUM pUrNamadah pUrNamidam pUrNat pUrNamudacyatE

pUrNasya pUrNamAdAya pUrNamEvAvas’iSyatE.

AUM s’Antih, s’Antih, s’Antih.

One of the interesting things about chanting this santi mantram is that all the vedic swaras in it are anudAttas and udAttas. There are no svaritAs and dwisvaritAs in it at all! See Siksha Vedanga.

AUM – is the divine sound, praNava nAda that Brahma meditates on and utters when at the beginning of his day, the beginning of our kalpa, when it is time for him to engage in creation. This divine sound is chanted as the first sound by all who wish to start a holy activity.

(There is some resemblance in AUM to Amen the biblical ‘yes’, aam the sanskrit and telugu ‘yes’ and to aama the tamil ‘yes’ . It is possible that all these other sounds have their origin in AUM or OM as we normally write it).

pUrNam – complete, adah – that, idam – this, udacyate – comes, rises, is generated, AdAya – having taken, eva – alone, avas’isyate  – remains.

Literal Translation :

AUM, this is complete and that is complete. From completeness, completeness arises.

Having taken completeness of completeness, only completeness remains.

Discussion :

Mathematical Meaning : Completeness refers to infinity. Any fraction of the infinite is infinite. When you subtract infinity from infinity only infinity remains. (Courtesy my grandfather and father :Kandula Nagabhushanam and Kavana Sarma)

Spiritual Meaning : ‘That” refers to brahman (Parabrahma). “This” refers to this manifest universe. What we can sense with our sensory organs. Both are complete. Completeness refers to Perfection. This visible universe that manifests from the perfect brahman is also perfect. When perfect, complete manifest universe is removed from the brahman, only the perfect complete brahman remains. The manifestation of a perfect God cannot be imperfect, it is also perfect. (CourtesyMy Veda Guru)

This has also been interpreted as when the complete manifest brahman is manifested or withdrawn finally into the unmanifest, only the unmanifest complete brahman remains.

My random thoughts :

The Purusha Suktam Mantram : (RV_10.090.03.2{17} pādo.asyaviśvā bhūtāni tripādasyāmṛtaṃ divi) can be literally understood to say that one fourth of the puruSa is the manifest universe and three fourths is in the immortal heavens. Is there a difference in understanding between nArAyaNa RSih (purusha suktam) and Yajnavalkya (Is’A vAsya upaniSat)? I think we need to look closer and less literally.

Closed and Open Systems :To take something out of something to somewhere else you need to have an open system. To remove the manifest universe from the brahman you need to put it some where else. See Purusha Suktham (puruSa sUktam) first mantram : sahasra sirsha purushah sahasrakshah saharsah pat. sa bhumim visvatoh vrutva atyatisthat dasangulam.Here too you have a concept of God (purusha) being outside of his creation.

Further, all our rituals invite God (dEvatA) into a Vigraha for the duration of our worship. In temples, God is installed and then periodically re-installed into the divya vigraha.

We also have another mantram phrase “aham vais’vAnarO bhUtvA prANinAm dEhamAs’ritah” which tells us that God enters life forms and exists there and digests our food as jaTarAgni. (Cooking and eating are yagnyAs!)

It is Agni‘s duty to bring along the dEvatAs for worship and then to take our offerings unto them.

Conclusion : As the infinite manifest universe has emerged and separated from the infinite unmanifest Brahman, both continue to be infinite, complete and perfect.

  • (1.2) See Is’A everywhere, be detached.
  • (1.1) Is’a : Sankara Bhashya on Isa Vasya Upanishad : We try to look at the first mantram of the Isa Vasya Upanishad.
     The first word in it is Is’a.

    In the Vedas, everytime there is a reference to the Divine, it is to one of his attributes. For eg savitr is progenitor, pUSan is the one who noursishes all of us, viSNu means omnipresent and so on.

    Is’a refers to that aspect of God, the master,  according to whose will or iSTa, this universe moves.

    It is generally understood by many theists that everything happens as per the will of God – Satya.

    Sankaracharya says that every which thing that moves in this moving world should be covered with Is’a.

    This means that whenever you look at anything at all, see it with a cover of the Master or Isa, by whose will alone it moves or acts or is ie Under whose control it is – Satya

    Aum. Is’A vAsyam idagam sarvam, yat kinchit jagatyAm jagat.

    (idam in Rg veda is idagam in yajur veda, it means this).

    This is the first mantra of this upanishad :

    Is’A vAsyam idam sarvam yat kincha jagatyAm jagat  / tena tyaktEna bhunjIthA mA grudhah kasya svid dhanam. //

    This is the translation :

    By the Master (Lord), should be covered (as with a cloth) all this, every which thing, that moves in the world.

    By giving that up, be protected, don’t covet, anyone’s wealth. (for whose is wealth?)

    Satya Bhasyham (My explanation) based on Sankaracharya Bhasyam :

    When you cover something with a cloth, all you can see is the cloth and not the object. Similarly when you cover everything by Is’a, all you can see is Is’a. It is detachment from all things that will protect you, neither the thing nor the attachment to it. Dhanam or wealth means different things to different people. But who does everything belong to ? Don’t covet things or want them, they are not yours or your neighbours’.

    There is one Isa based on whose will everything moves. The concept of duality is an illusion. Just as wet sandal can be made to smell good again, by rubbing it with sandal, all duality, change and motion can be made to disappear by recognising Isa everywhere. All things have nothing but Isa, the paramAtma in them as their Atma. When you cover them again with Isa, the duality disappears. Now you no longer care for threefold desires of sons, wealth and worlds.

    This is the way for those who seek liberation through renunciation. They need not perform any karma, vEdOkta or otherwise. And it has been explained previously that this upanishad is for those who seek to know the true nature of things. True Knowledge and Karma are not the same path at all.

    We can work or we can know. Those who know cannot do and those who “Do/Act” do not/cannot know. Action (Karma) is for those who cannot understand the True Nature of Reality. Renunciation is for those who understand the true nature of reality. Knowledge inhibits action, emotion facilitates action. – Satya

  • (2.2) Duties must be done. Life must be lived.
  • (1-2.G) First Two Mantras : Sankara, Krishna, Yagnyavalkya .. Isa Upanishad and Gita

The Isa Upanishad is last part of the Sukla Yajur Veda, given to us by Yajnavalkya, received by him from Surya. Krishna gave us the Bhagavad Gita which is the essence of all the upanishads.

Sankaracharya has written a commentary on the Isa Upanishad as well as on the Bhagavad Gita.

He advocated the Advaita Philosophy, based on how he interpreted the prasthana traya. He defended his view very well and got a lot of followers. At later points in time the leaders of the Dwaita and Visishtadwaita Philosophy critiqued his work and created their own following.

Today’s Hindus absorb a few words and ideas from each school of thought and end up with an easy dictum “be good and kind, and God will be pleased” kind of philosophy which is both nebulous and practical at the same time. Thus Indian Hindus were far more easy  to reform constitutionally than other groups.

However I like to know things exactly. This post discusses the first three mantras of the Isa Vasya Upanishad only, and what I understand about them, ie my interpretation and defence in relation to the Gita.

The first mantra says  ”All this is to be covered by Isa, all that moves in the moving world. Be protected by giving it up, don’t covet, for whose his wealth?”

The second mantra says, “Karmas must be done only. (Life) is to be lived for a 100 years. Other than this there is no other way by which Karma does not stick to men.”

Sankara says that the first mantra is for the gnyanis and mumukhsus who want salvation. And that the second is for the ordinary people.

But I think that the first 2 slokas taken together give us Karma Yoga.. as Krishna said.

Live Long. See Isa in all. Do Karma (that which should be done).  Give up everything (the results). Thus protect yourself from the karma that you do from sticking to you.

(3.3) Self-Destruction leads to Darkness.

(3.2)Isa Upanishad : asUryA nama tE lOkAh : The sunless worlds : NASA

(3.1 )The third mantra says “Indeed, covered with blinding darkness are those “asurya” worlds, having been sent, there go those “self-destructive (atmahanah) people”.

Now there is scope for definitions and interpretations.

I could interpret this as “People who commit suicide go to dark worlds (hell)”. And I have heard this theory float around.

Sankara says that the asurya worlds are those states/places other where the non-duality of the paramatama is neglected (left).

He says not educating oneself it self is atmahani. Who can argue with this? So people who don’t strive for gnyana (avidvansah) go to those blinding states of ignorance. Of Duality. And after remaining stationary in these states of devas and asuras, they return to karma according to Sankara.

But Krishna says in chapter 2 of the Gita, that atma is eternal and cannot be hurt killed and so on. So where is the question of atmahani?

My Veda Guru, Kunda Miss says that aatma here refers to atma-sanghaatam. Atma plus body plus mind. The union. That can be hurt. Physically with blows and mentally by lack of learning, thinking and other ways.

Krishna then says in Gita chapter 2, that IF you think the atma can be killed, then know that it will be reborn.That’s not what He thinks. Is he referring to the likes of Yajnyavalkya who used the word atmahani? (Clearly Arjuna had no opinion of his own on these matters.) We have to see what the rest of the study reveals.

If you accept Sankara’s premises and definitions, you can’t fault his crystal clear logic. He is my kula guru. So I am an advaitin. And even otherwise my own reasoning leads to advaita. My question in my own mind, for me to answer over time, is did Sankara correctly deduce the original intent of these mantras? – Satya

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula. Image Rights Vest With the Sources


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