Isha Upanishad

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi ShankarUpanishad means sitting close. You can sit close to someone on the plane, but there is a big distance in the mind. Spirituality is so abstract – to get a foot into the spiritual world, you need mental proximity. The best form of learning is when the teacher sits with the student, not physically, but mentally, emotionally as well. This is lacking in schools today. The student doubts the wisdom of the teacher and the teacher doubts the sincerity of the student – that is why the knowledge doesn’t flow.

Thousands of years ago, this knowledge came up in the form of Upanishad. When students sat close to teachers – teachers always encouraged the quest for knowledge. The teacher enjoyed the questions from students. Knowledge can only be discussed when there is peace – when the mind is at peace.

The first thing is to settle the mind down, so you can reflect. When the lake is settled, that is when you can see the reflection of the mountains. No happiness or knowledge can happen without peace.

The first step to peace is to realise that everything is complete. The world is moving from one fullness to another fullness.

What is it that is causing incompleteness inside you? That is causing restlessness inside you?

Verse 1

ISHA means the divine. It is permeating the whole universe and is addressed as energy, not a person. Everything is permeated in that one consciousness. Trees, water and our bodies – everything is made of ISHA. The whole universe is permeated by ISHA. Not just objects, but even the space between the objects is permeated by ISHA. Wake up and see that the whole universe is infinite – your inner space is as complete as this universe. The universe is permeating your spirit. What we consider lifeless is alive with energy – e.g. mountains and cars – nothing is dead.

Enjoy this world by renouncing it. Protect yourself by giving it up. Give it up before it frustrates you. Your feverishness to hold onto it brings you misery and it is this misery you have to protect yourself from. Renunciation is the protection for your soul – learning to let go can save your soul. Can you possess anything forever? Usually people discard something by saying it’s useless and let it go. When you bring an element of sacredness into something – their positive qualities sprout, when you remove the sacredness – the negative qualities are enhanced.

There are two situations in life: Happy and unhappy.

When you are happy, you serve and the happiness remains with you. When you are unhappy the only way to get out of misery is to let it go. The strength to renounce in misery and willingness to do service when happy are two things to learn in life. Understand your misery is much smaller than those who have bigger problems.

Enjoy this world with a sense of renunciation from within. Life is a journey where you pass many types of scenery, allow things to pass by and move ahead, and don’t get stuck in any place. Everything is permeated by one consciousness. Pleasant and unpleasant events are made up of one divinity. Unpleasant events make you stronger. Pleasant events expand you. If you cannot let go of the past, you cannot enjoy the future. Renunciation is being in the present moment totally. Nobody can do this for you. You have to do it for yourself.

Meditation occurs in fewer than three conditions – when you understand YOU are not meditating. I am nothing, I do nothing, and I want nothing. Your needs will always be taken care of. Nature / ISHA will always take care of you e.g. as a baby you have always had someone taking care of you. When you are dead, are you going to cremate your own body? No, someone else will do it for you. We only worry because we don’t know that the universe is filled with nothing but love. We are floating in an ocean of love and energy. Close your eyes and feel this – you are floating in a field of energy. Enjoy this by renouncing it.

Renunciation is the greatest instrument / strength to protect your mind. Crime will vanish when this awareness is woken up in every human heart. Why would anyone commit a crime if they realise the universe is permeated with love and abundance?

Verse 2

Aspire to live for 100 years doing your work. Life is here to get you over your karma’s – only by living in your body can you do this. When you do your work, and perform your duties – save your mind, intellect, body etc – and with the knowledge you get, impart it unto others. When you die, you will be asked two questions: How much love have you given? How much knowledge have you acquired? Whatever you have not given or loved, you will come back to do. Keep doing your work and keep renouncing. When you do an action as an expression of joy – it does not bind you, but when you do an action and expect joy – it binds you. Do your action 100%, but don’t be feverish about it.

Verse 3

The brain works on a frequency channel. TV cables and satellites allow us to view certain channels – similarly, our brain can only perceive things at certain frequencies e.g. a bat can see things in the dark that we cannot see. We cannot really know the entire universe and its magnanimity because of our limited ability to perceive. Still, in this limited time we call life – we keep doing our work. There are two types of work:

  1. Work to uplift one’s spirit
  2. The work that we do in the world i.e. performing our duties

 The question comes – if we work, why should we do anything spiritual at all? One who has not realised who they are – will live with no centeredness. They will live in the darkness in the world, and when they leave the world, they will be in darkness also. One who is not centered will go into that world. Energy cannot be created or destroyed – the body is recycled, air is recycled, water is recycled.

People questioned rebirth years go, but today it has been confirmed by psychiatrists and psychologists. This consciousness or spirit finds another body and comes back. The last thought that you have at night, is the first thought that you have in the morning. Like sleep – death is the gap between two lifetimes. Rebirth means sleeping in one body and waking up in another body. Till the age of three years, every baby remembers the past life – after this the memories start fading away – which is good. We don’t need to remember these things, nature places that ‘block’ there so you can start your life afresh. When you are established in the self and centered, then all that memory comes back.

Darkness covers one who does not realise or attend to the self in life. Therefore the last thought before you leave the body is the most important, for instance grandparents are so connected to their grandchildren, even more so than to their own children, so when they die – they usually come back to the same family. When you leave the body in meditation, you achieve a higher plane. Those who leave the body in coma or in sleep come back as a tree.

Verse 4 + 5

Each of you is a particular frequency. The Universe has multiple layers in the same plane called LOKA’s. How do you know if you have realised the self? The Atma is motionless – it is the substratum of the universe, everything is in it. The Divine is not an object or a person – it is a space, you are all over your body, yet you are nowhere. The Atma or the Self is the space, it doesn’t move – it is the body or vessel that moves. The mind is faster than light, it moves 100 x faster than the speed of light – the self is faster than the mind. You can never comprehend the self through the senses; you can never see the self. The “see-er” is the self. The one who sees, who feels, who understands is the self. The see-er cannot be the object – it has no form and no shape. It cannot be comprehended though the senses, yet everything happens through the senses. Every action in the universe is run through the consciousness – the mind and the spirit, yet it does not act. You do whatever you do – because there is life in you. A seed sprouts because there is consciousness in the seed. (Consciousness by itself cannot drive a car, but you drive the car because you have consciousness in you)

Everything has units of life in it.

Stone → 1 unit; Water →2 units; Fire → 3 units; Air → 4 units; Space → 5 units

Human beings have 8 units (much more than animals) – and they can go up to 16 units. The entire universe is filled with this prana or life. You are the container, not the contents of this prana.

Verse 6

One who sees everything in oneself and oneself in everything – will never hate anything. Hatred will disappear from his life.

Life is not an isolated unit, it is part of a whole. You cannot make someone happy all the time, or forever. People will get miserable. How do you protect your mind from being dragged into someone else’s misery? You find that one cell that is free from misery inside that person and inside yourself. When you realise that misery is only an outward act and inside they are really happy, you become free from that Karma.

Verse 7

How not to hate? First we have to think – from where does hatred come? Hatred comes because we think other people are the cause of our misery, our problems and our pain. When you get a glimpse of the consciousness deep inside you – you know that it is the master and that it is taking care of you – then hatred disappears. The moment it disappears from your heart, it also disappears from your world. One who sees himself in all beings and all beings in himself – will change their approach towards events and problems in life. Where is the delusion and where is the greed for one who experiences oneness.

All elements in creation are part of that one consciousness. Everything is part of one energy, one being, one self. Grief is centered around you. You are sad because you have lost something which is yours. How do we transcend this? By making it bigger. Don’t think that just this is yours – everything is yours. Not just this house is yours – everything in the world is yours. Where consciousness expands to embrace the world, entanglement disappears. Limited responsibilities create a burden, whereas unlimited responsibilities do not.

What is needed for you and your body will be taken care of, when you know this the lack will disappear from your life. When you realise ISHA permeates everything you will relax and be at ease – that is when things happen.

Verse 8

If you think that you are managing the whole world, you are mistaken. There were two lizards on the roof, one said “it is nice and sunny outside, let’s go and take a walk.” The other said “If I leave, who will hold the roof?”

Billions of people have come and gone, they get this illusion that they own it all – and then they disappear.

We were born on this planet knowing the whole universe is filled with life – and that is the truth. But as we grow up, we started thinking everything is programmed and automatic. Atheists cannot accept something is alive and dynamic – even intelligence to them seems to be mechanised and lifeless.

Spiritualists consider the whole universe to be alive and vibrant with intelligence. And that intelligence is what you are.

The spirit is formless. The consciousness is formless – this is what is emphasised in Islam. That which is formless, which is ever present can be perceived in all the forms. What we perceive as a form is also formless e.g. an ice cube is also made of water.

Verse 9

Our prana changes throughout the day – with sunrise and sunset.  Thus singing and chanting nullifies the negative effects in the environment. Especially chanting Om Namah Shivaya, it nullifies all the negative emotions e.g. anger and hatred.

There are two branches of knowledge:

  1. Vidhya – the spiritual aspect
  2. Avidhya – the material / subjective aspect

 If you are completely engrossed in Avidhya, you are in darkness. If you are completely immersed in Vidhya, you are also in darkness – and if you are in neither then you are in greater darkness. Both are essential.

The basis for spiritual knowledge is subjective knowledge. You need to know these first – then know the mind, the memory, the intellect, the ego. These can only be understood if you can understand the self. If someone is only with the experience of Vidhya, they can hallucinate. There is no joy in them at all. Too much of anything is not good.

If you are doing something it is Avidhya. Vidhya is when you do nothing at all. Anyone who is one sided is lost because we are a combination of both – matter and spirit.

 Verse 10

Truth is multi-dimensional. When we think truth is linear then there is only one direction, when we say it is spherical then we appreciate there are many possibilities. For instance, a man coming to ashram from the North has to go down the road and turn right, whilst man coming from South has to go up road and turn left.

There is one path with many ways. Conflicts have existed for centuries because we are used to thinking in a linear dimension – we cannot see there are many possibilities. Another possibility may be that neither through Vidhya or Avidhya can you achieve the truth. Neither through reading/understanding, nor through the experience can we perceive the truth.

It is a skill to hold different realities at the same time and remain healthy.

Verse 11

You have to live in the world, you have to do your duties and perform them well. The scientific approach is a must in spirituality. Knowing about electricity, medicine, cars and so forth is all part of Avidhya and knowing this is essential in life. Knowing this, you can cross to Vidhya and realise that you are love, peace and joy – that is beyond any expression or understanding. The whole idea is to bring a balance to the system and our mind.

 For the intelligent, words are only decoration. Real understanding comes through silence. That is Upanishad. There is nothing like silence that can make you close to someone.

 Do you know why human beings love animals more than other humans? Because they communicate with you through silence and you do the same with them.

Verse 12

There are two types of people:

  1. Those who focus on what is visible, or what they have i.e. their job, their next meal or a movie. They are just focused on their routine and nothing else. They are in a state of inertia and are always attached to what they have. Their life becomes miserable. And they enter into darkness.
  2. Those who focus on what they don’t have. They have a cake, but they are miserable because there is no cherry on it. These people enter into greater darkness. You have things and they are dead for you because once you possess things you don’t spend time with them at all. There are so many things in your house that you just take for granted. We don’t pay attention to what we have, and we don’t know how to deal with things we don’t have.

The bible says “ask and it shall be given unto you.”

Note – ask, but don’t pester! We pester, that’s why it doesn’t come.

Rishi’s say – have an intention or Sankalpa – and throw that out – it will come to you in its own time, just like mango seed will sprout in its own time.

Fools are unhappy with what they have and what they don’t have. The wise are happy with what they have and what they don’t have.

It is important to have aspirations – but if you are feverish about your aspirations, that itself is an impediment to achieving them. Just have the intention, “this is what I want” – and let it go.

Verse 13

Your whole life, every breath you take is a form of worship. Worship means loving with consideration and honour. Adoration alone is not worship. Adoration is loving a person because of their appearance or qualities they have.

Verse 14

There is that which is – and that which changes. Knowing that everything is changing – everything wakes up in you and you suddenly become alive. With this, you can overcome inertia/death. The truth is always simple. The highest truth is permeating the simplest forms of creation. When you see this whole universe is changing, you don’t take things for granted. The changing universe charms you by lifting you away from death. The unchanging universe gives you a glimpse of immortality. Know the change and see the non-change.

Verse 15

Life is like a gift, yet some are stuck with the outer wrapper. They have not opened the gift. This prayer is thus appropriate – “O nourisher, lift that veil – If I could find truth myself, it is not truth at all.”

Verse 16

Different aspects of one’s consciousness will enable the mind to experience or not to experience. All the different attributes of the consciousness have to give way, so you can realise “I am that”. Similarly, in meditation, when you take the attention to different parts of the body, different things happen e.g. the body assumes a different posture. When you are having a one on one conversation, the consciousness is different to when you are addressing a crowd. With many different things, the consciousness assumes many different forms.

Verse 17

All cultures put ash on the body. The purpose is to remind us that the skin is going to turn into ashes. When we know this we get that dispassion – if you know someone is going to turn to ashes you will never get angry with them again, and all negativity towards them will disappear. Remember what you have done – and what you have to do.

Verse 18

“OM” is the true name of ME that is unmanifested. It is my oldest name and the one name of the spirit you can hear in deep meditation.

This is a prayer to lead us along a righteous path. How does sound get generated? From the cell, in conjunction with the intellect. The big mind with the heat/prana then moves through the vocal cords to produce sound. Each letter that we speak has a particular point in the body which it impacts on more than other points. It’s the fire in you that makes you think and moves you. It also makes you angry, jealous and other negative emotions.

Fire also means the original unblemished consciousness. All that we can wish for is, “let this fire in me lead me down a righteous path. Let my thoughts be good – let me not wish ill on anyone”. The fire has this quality that it purifies things e.g. impure gold will turn to pure gold. Even air has this quality. If there is anything that we should pray for, it’s to ask for the fire in me to move in the right direction. Also pray “may noble thoughts lead me in the right direction.”

There are many philosophies. Philosophies don’t move people – examples move people. People are not moved by principle, they are moved by people.

The truth is covered by gold. You may find things that are so charming, but don’t just stop there, go a little further. Whatever is charming in life, enjoy it, but with a sense of detachment for beyond this there lies the truth. Pray to the Lord Almighty to show you the path beyond this. Everybody prays when they are miserable. Nobody prays when they are happy. If everyone prayed when they are happy why would sorrow touch them.

The Divine knows the deed before you can even do it, no explanation is required. Don’t feel guilty about doing something, and don’t feel a victim. A guilty conscience and a victim conscience moves you away from spirituality.

It’s the divine consciousness that brings down all the dust and sins of the past – just like a fire. When this happens we feel physically healthy and spiritually uplifted – and when this happens, our behaviour becomes spontaneously sweet.

Source: His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar





Posted on: January 27th, 2012  |  Category: Holistic Healing  |  1 Comment

One Response

  1. I learned allot with this great read and i am sure i will be adopting, questioning and acknowledging my surroundings and thoughts. Thank you for this insightful inspiration.

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