Isha Upanishad | by Shankara | 13-18


anyadevāhuḥ sambhavādanyadāhurasambhavāt .
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇāṁ ye nastadvicacakṣire .. 13..

By the worship of the Unmanifested one end is attained;
by the worship of the manifested, another.
Thus we have heard from the wise men who taught us this.

Anyat eva, a different result indeed; āhuḥ, they spoke of; sambhavāt, from sambhūti, the Manifested; the idea is that they spoke of the result, comprising supernormal faculties such as becoming subtle etc., accruing from the worship of the manifested Brahman (Hiraṇyagarbha).

Similarly too, they anyat āhuḥ, spoke of a different result; asambhavāt, from asambhūti, avyākṛta—from the worship of the Unmanifested—that which has been referred to in the text,

They enter into blinding darkness” (Īś. 12) and is called absorption into Prakṛti (Primordial Nature) by the Paurāṇikas.

Iti, thus; śuśruma dhīrāṇāṁ, we have heard the speech of the wise; who vicacakṣire, explained that to us, i.e. explained the result of the worship of the Manifested and the Unmanifested.

Since this is so, and since both are meant for the same human goal, it is proper to combine the worship of the Manifested and the Unmanifested.

This is being said by the verse:


sambhūtiṁ ca vināśaṁ ca yastadvedobhayaɱ saha .
vināśena mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā sambhūtyā'mṛtamaśnute .. 14..

He who knows at the same time both
the Unmanifested (the cause of manifestation)
and the destructible or manifested,
he crosses over death through knowledge of the destructible
and attains immortality through knowledge of the First Cause (Unmanifested).

He who knows these two—the Unmanifested and Destruction—together;

vināśena, through Destruction; though vināśa (destruction) is an attribute of the evolutes of its substantive, it is spoken of as identical with the substantive itself (i.e. manifested Brahman or Hiraṇyagarbha), of which, too, it (vināśa or destruction) is a characteristic; by that, by the worship of that (vināśa);

mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā, crossing over death—the bundle of faults such as absence of super-normal faculty, and demerit, desire, etc.; for through the worship of Hiraṇyagarbha is obtained such results as powers of becoming subtle; mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā, crossing over death, consisting in the non-possession of supernormal faculties; asambhūtyā, through the worship of the Unmanifested; amṛtam aśnute, (he) attains immortality—characterised as absorption in Prakṛti.

It is to be noted that in sambhūtiṁ ca vināśaṁ ca there is a presentation by omission of the letter a (before sambhūti) which should be asambhūti in conformity with the mention of the fruit, viz. absorption in Prakṛti (i.e. asambhūti).

It is indicated by the scriptures that absorption into Prakṛti is the highest result attainable through human and divine wealth:

Up to this is the course of worldly existence.

Beyond this is the identification with the Self in all, as indicated earlier in the verse:

When to the man of realisation all beings become the very Self” (Īś. 7),

- which is the result of devotion to knowledge after renouncing all desires.

Thus has been revealed the 2-fold purport of the Vedas consisting in desire for and desisting from activity.

As to this, the (Śatapatha) Brāhmaṇa, ending with the Pravargya ritual, is devoted to the revelation as a whole of the Vedic purport indicated through injunction and prohibition of activity.

And the Brihadāraṇyaka thereafter is devoted to the revelation of the Vedic purport characterised by desisting from activity.

In this connection, the verse,

He who knows these two—vidyā and avidyā—together, attains immortality through vidyā, by crossing over death through avidya" (Īś. 11),

- has been cited for the person who wants to live by doing rites—beginning from conception and ending in death—in conjunction with meditation on the lower Brahman.

Now, then, the question, “By what route will he achieve immortality?“ is being answered:

Now, That which is the Truth (Brahman), is the Sun—who is the Person in the solar orb, as also the Person in the right eye” (Brih. V. V. 2)

- he who has meditated on both these (Persons) as the Truth (Brahman) and performed the rites as mentioned (in the scriptures), prays at the time of death, to the Self, for the door leading to the Self, in the verse:

The face of Truth is concealed with a golden vessel“ etc.


hiraṇmayena pātreṇa satyasyāpihitaṁ mukham .
tattvaṁ pūṣannapāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye .. 15..

The face of Truth is hidden by a golden disk. O Pūshan (Effulgent Being)!
Uncover (Thy face) that I, the worshipper of Truth, may behold Thee.

Hiraṇmaya means golden, appearing as though made of gold, i.e. resplendent; by that; pātreṇa, by the vessel, which is like a lid that hides from view;

apihitam, is concealed, covered; mukham, the face, the door, satyasya, of Truth, of that very Brahman who is in the solar orb.

Tat tvam pūṣan, that thou, O Sun; apāvṛṇu, do open, i.e. remove.

I who have got the quality of Truth, by meditating on you as Truth, am satyadharmā, so satyadharmāya means, for my sake who am of that kind (truthful); or it means, for the sake of one (i.e. me) who performs the rightful duties.

Dṛṣṭaye, so as to be seen; so that you yourself, who are the Truth, may be realised.


pūṣannekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya
vyūha raśmīn samūha tejaḥ .
yatte rūpaṁ kalyāṇatamaṁ tatte paśyāmi
yo'sāvasau puruṣaḥ so'hamasmi .. 16..

O Pūshan! O Sun, sole traveller of the heavens, controller of all, son of Prajāpati,
withdraw Thy rays and gather up Thy burning effulgence.
Now through Thy Grace I behold Thy blessed and glorious form.
The Purusha (Effulgent Being) who dwells within Thee, I am He.

Pūṣan, O Sun! The sun is the pūṣā, nourisher, because he nourishes the world. Similarly he travels alone (ekarṣat); hence he is ekarṣi.

Ekarṣe, O solitary traveller! So also he is yama, controller, because of controlling (saṁyamanāt) all; O controller. Likewise he is sūrya, acquirer, because of securing to himself (svīkaraņāt) all rays, vital forces, and liquids; O acquirer.

The son of Prajāpati is Prājāpatya; O son of Prajāpati. Vyūha, remove; thy own raśmīn, rays; samūha, gather up, withdraw; thy tejaḥ, heat, the oppressing dazzle.

Yat te, that which is thy; rūpam kalyāṇatamaṁ, most benign, most graceful, form; tat, that; paśyāmi, I shall see; by te, thy —thy grace, who art the Self.

Moreover, I do not entreat thee like a servant; yaḥ asau, the Person who is there, in the solar orb—whose limbs are the vyāhṛtis, and who is called a Person (Puruṣa) because he has the figure of a person; or because by him, in the form of the vital forces and intelligence, the whole world is filled; or because he resides in the city (of the heart)—saḥ aham asmi, that Person am I.


vāyuranilamamṛtamathedaṁ bhasmāṁtam śarīram .
auṁ krato smara kṛtaɱ smara krato smara kṛtaɱ smara .. 17..

May my life-breath go to the all-pervading and immortal Prāṇa,
and let this body be burned to ashes.
Om! O Lord, remember my deeds!
O Lord, remember, remember my deeds! Remember!

Atha, now; as I am dying, let my vāyu, vital force; give up its physical limitation and attain its divine nature which is the all-pervading, amṛtam anilam, immortal Air, i.e. Sūtrātmā (Hiraṇyagarbha).

The word “attain” has to be supplied to complete the sentence.

The idea, “And let this subtle body, purified by rites and meditation, ascend”, is also understood, by virtue of the solicitation for the path (to ascend by).

Atha, now; idam śarīram, this body; being offered as an oblation to fire; bhasmāntam, may be reduced to ashes.

Since Brahman has O as its symbol, therefore, consonantly with the meditation followed (by the dying man), Brahman, which is called Fire and is Truth by nature, is presented here as identical with Om.

Krato, O mind, whose characteristic is volition; smara, (you) remember; the time has arrived when all that has to be remembered by me should be remembered; therefore (you) remember all that has been thought of so long.

And O Fire, smara, remember; kṛtaṁ smara, whatever work has been done from my childhood, that too, thou remember. Krato smara, kṛtaṁ smara—this repetition implies solicitude.

He prays for the path again through another verse:


agne naya supathā rāye asmān
viśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān .
bhūyiṣṭhāṁ te namauktiṁ vidhema .. 18..

O Agni (Bright Being)! Lead us to blessedness by the good path.
O Lord! Thou knowest all our deeds, remove all evil and delusion from us.
To Thee we offer our prostrations and supplications again and again.

Agne, O Fire; deva, O god; vidvān, knowing; viśvāni vayunāni, all deeds or meditations; naya, lead; asmān, us— who are endowed with the aforesaid fruits of virtue; supathā, by the good path.

The attribute “good path” is used for eschewing the Southern Path (Pitṛi-yāna):

I am disgusted with the Southern Path which is characterised by going and coming; hence I entreat thee again and again,

Lead by the good path which is free from going and coming.”

Rāye means, for the sake of wealth, i.e. for the enjoyment of the fruits of deeds.

Moreover, yuyodhi, remove, destroy; asmāt means asmatta, from us; juhurāṇam, crooked, deceitful; enas, sin.

The idea is this:

Becoming purified thereby, we shall achieve our desired object.

But (as) at present we cannot render any service to thee, (so) te, to thee; bhūyiṣṭhāṁ, many; namaḥ uktiṁ, words of salutation; vidhema, we offer—i.e. we serve thee with salutations.

(A doubt):

Some people are filled with doubt at hearing the texts:

Crossing over death, through avidyā, attains immortality through vidyā'" (Īś. 11), and

Crossing over death, through Destruction, attains immortality through the Unmanifested” (Īś. 14).

Hence, to remove that doubt, we shall discuss (the topic) in brief:

Now, then, the reason why the doubt arises is being stated:

By the word vidyā, why should not the knowledge of the supreme Self itself be understood; and so also (why should not) immortality (be taken in the primary sense)?


Is it not a fact that by reason of the opposition between the knowledge of the supreme Self and karma, mentioned earlier, there is no possibility of combination?


True. But the opposition is not comprehended, because opposition or agreement rests on the authority of scriptures. Just as the performance of karma and the pursuit of knowledge rest on the authority of the scriptures, so also do their opposition and agreement.

Just as the prohibition, “Do not kill any living thing”, learnt from scripture, is overridden by the injunction, “One should kill an animal in a sacrifice”, so also it is possible in the case of karma and knowledge that karma and knowledge are to be combined.


No (they cannot be combined), because of the Vedic text: “What are known as vidyā (knowledge) and avidyā (karma) are entirely different, and they follow different courses” (Ka. I. II. 4).


Suppose we say that there is no antagonism because of the text:
He who knows vidyā and avidyā together” (Īś. 11).


No, because of the opposition involved in (their) causes, natures, and results.


Since (on the one hand) it is impossible to accept either alternative
when there is both opposition and non-opposition between karma and knowledge,
and since (on the other hand) their combination is enjoined (here),

may we not argue that there is (really) no contradiction (between them)?


No, since their co-existence is absurd.


Suppose we say that knowledge and karma may cohere in the same person successively.


No. For, when knowledge arises, karma vanishes, since in the person in whom knowledge exists, karma cannot remain.

For it is a fact that when the knowledge, “Fire is hot and effulgent”, has arisen in a person, then in that very person there cannot arise the ignorance or doubt or error (of the form), “Fire is cold or non-illuminating”.

The impossibility of sorrow and delusion (for a man of knowledge) is declared by the Vedic text:

When to the man of realisation all beings become the very Self, then what delusion and what sorrow can there be for that seer of oneness?” (Īś. 7).

And we have already said that since ignorance is impossible (for such a man), karma, which originates from ignorance, is also impossible.

As for the text, “He attains immortality”, (Īś. 14) the immortality is a relative thing.

If the knowledge of the supreme Self is understood by the word vidyā, the prayer for the path etc. in the text, “The face of the Truth (Brahman) is covered” etc. (Īś. 15) becomes irreconcilable.

Accordingly, the combination (of karma) is with meditation and not with the knowledge of the supreme Self.

Thus we conclude by remarking that the meaning of the verse is just as we have interpreted.

auṁ pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṁ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate .
pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate ..

OM! That (the Invisible-Absolute) is whole;
whole is this (the visible phenomenal);
from the Invisible Whole comes forth the visible whole.
Though the visible whole has come out from that Invisible Whole,
yet the Whole remains unaltered.

ॐ शांतिः शांतिः शांतिः ..

auṁ śāṁtiḥ śāṁtiḥ śāṁtiḥ ..

Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!