Isha Upanishad | by Shankara | 7-12



yasminsarvāṇi bhūtānyātmaivābhūdvijānataḥ .
tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvamanupaśyataḥ .. 7..

He who perceives all beings as the Self’
for him how can there be delusion or grief,
when he sees this oneness (everywhere)?

Yasmin vijānataḥ, when to the man who has realised, (Or—in the aforesaid Self of the man of realisation in which); sarvāṇi bhūtāni, all those beings; ātma eva abhūt, have become the Self alone—as a result of the realisation of the supreme Self;

tatra, at that time (or to that Self); kaḥ mohaḥ, kaśoka, what delusion and what sorrow can there be?

Sorrow and delusion happen to the ignorant man who does not perceive the seed of desire and actions, but not anupaśyataḥ ekatvam, to the man who realises the oneness, of the Self which is pure like space.

The impossibility of grief and delusion, the effects of ignorance, having been indicated through the question, “what delusion and what sorrow can there be?”, the total eradication of worldly existence, with its cause, has been shown ipso facto.

This verse indicates what the Self, that was spoken of in the previous verses, really is in Its own nature:


sa paryagācchukramakāyamavraṇa
masnāviraɱ śuddhamapāpaviddham .
kavirmanīṣī paribhūḥ svayambhū
ryāthātathyato'rthān vyadadhācchāśvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ ..

He (the Self) is all-encircling, resplendent, bodiless,
spotless, without sinews, pure, untouched by sin,
all-seeing, all-knowing, transcendent, self-existent;
He has disposed all things duly for eternal years.

Sa, He the aforesaid Self; paryagāt, is all-pervasive, like space—(the word) being derived from pari, on all sides, and agāt, went.

He is śukram, pure, bright, resplendent, akāyam, bodiless, i.e. without the subtle body; avraṇam, without wound, scatheless; asnāviram, without sinews— one in whom there is no sinew.

By the two expressions, “without wound” and “without sinews”, the gross body is negated, śuddham, taintless, devoid of the dirt of ignorance; thereby is negated the causal body.

Apāpaviddham, untouched by sin in the form of merit and demerit etc.

The expressions beginning with Śukram are to be converted into masculine because the introduction is made with saḥ paryagāt and the conclusion with kaviḥ manīṣī in the masculine form.

Kaviḥ (omniscient) means the seer of the krānta, past, i. e. seer of all, as the Vedic text says, “There is no other seer but this” (Brih. III. VIII. 11).

Manīṣī means the ruler of the mind, i.e. omniscient God. Paribhuḥ is one who exists above all (transcendent). Svāyambhu means he who exists by himself.

He, the all, becomes by Himself all, viz. all that is transcended as well as all that is transcendental; and hence He is self-existent.

He, the ever-free (all-powerful) Lord, because of His omniscience, yāthātathyata, duly, as it should be, in consonance with actual result and endeavour;

arthān, the duties; vyadadhāt, has allotted, i.e. distributed in the proper way (according to individual competence); śāśvatībhyaḥ samābhya, to the eternal years, to the Prajāpatis (creators) called the years.

Here the first purport of the Vedas is devotedness to knowledge after renouncing all desires; and this idea has been expressed by the 1st verse thus:

All this should be covered by the Lord. . . . Do not covet anybody’s wealth.”

And the second purport of the Vedas is that, in case this devotedness to knowledge is impossible for the man of ignorance, there should be continuance in the path of duty, which fact is stated in the 2nd verse thus:

By doing karmas, indeed, should one wish to live.”

This division of paths of life, as shown in these verses, has also been indicated in the Brihadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad. Thus from the text,

He desired, ‘Let me have a wife’,” etc. (Br. I. IV. 17), it can be clearly understood that works are meant for a man who is ignorant and hankers after results.

And from the sentence, “The mind is his soul, and speech his wife,” etc. (ibid. I. IV. 17), it can be clearly understood that ignorance and desires are the characteristics of a man devoted to work.

So the result of this work is the creation of seven kinds of fruits and continuance in a state of identification with them under the idea that they are the Self.

And by the text,

What shall we achieve through children,
we to whom the Self which we have attained is the goal?
” etc.
(Br. IV. iv. 22),

it has been shown that for those who have realised the Self by renouncing the 3-fold desire for wife etc. (i.e. for son, wealth, and heavens), there can only be continuance in the Self Itself, as opposed to the continuance in the path of karma.

After the condemnation of the ignorant man by the verse, “Those worlds of the devils” etc. (Īś. 3),

the true nature of the Self has been revealed by the verses ending with, “He is all-pervasive,” etc. (Īś. 8), to those men of renunciation who are steadfast in knowledge,

- so as to show that they alone are qualified for this and not those who have desires.

So also in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (VI. 21) this has been separately spoken of thus:

To those (men of complete renunciation) who had gone beyond all (the 4) stages of life, he spoke this holiest of things which is fully adored by the seers as a class.

But the present verse is meant for those men of activity who have desires and want to live by doing karma.


How is it, again, known that it is not meant for all?

The answer is:

None but a fool will wish to combine with any work, or with any other knowledge (i.e. meditation), that knowledge of the oneness of the Self that has been imparted to the passionless man after the eradication of the distinction of all ends and means, by the text,

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

But the condemnation of the ignorant etc. is done here with a view to achieving a combination (of vidyā, i.e. worship or meditation, and karma).

And as to that, not the knowledge of the supreme Self, but the thing—viz. the divine possession (i.e. the meditation on the gods)—that can possibly be combined with the other factor (viz. karma), has been spoken of here as the associate of karma, since for this vidyā (meditation or worship) a result, different from the knowledge of Brahman has been declared thus:

Through vidyā is attained the world of the gods” (Br. I. V. 16).

The denunciation of the separate pursuit of either of these two—vidyā and karma—is not merely for the sake of denunciation, but for the sake of bringing them together, for a distinct result is declared for each by the Vedic texts:

“They ascend to this through vidyā”;
“The world of gods (is attained) through vidyā'" (Br. I. V. 16);
“The people following the Southern Path do not reach there”;
“The world of the Manes through rites” (Br. I. V. 16);

- and this is so because nothing enjoined by the scriptures can be unworthy of performance.


andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye'vidyāmupāsate .
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyāɱ ratāḥ .. 9..

They enter into blind darkness
who worship Avidya (ignorance and delusion);
they fall, as it were, into greater darkness
who worship Vidyā (knowledge).

Of these 2, they praviśanti, enter; into andhaṁ tamaḥ, blinding darkness, characterised by absence of perception.

Who? Ye avidyām, those who (worship) avidyā.

Avidyā is different from vidyā, i.e. it is karma, since karma is opposed to vidyā, (they) upāsate, worship; that avidyā in the form of Agnihotra etc., alone. The import is that they perform this whole-heartedly.

Tataḥ, than that darkness, characterised as blindness; bhūyaḥ iva tama, into greater darkness; te, they; enter.

Who? Ye, they, who giving up rites; vidyāyām u ratāḥ, are engaged only in vidyā, are always bent on the meditation on (and worship of) gods.

With regard to that matter, again, the separate secondary results of meditation and rites are advanced as reasons for the combination of the 2,

as otherwise, if one of these two closely associated factors bore fruit, while the other did not, they would be related as the part and the whole, (which is absurd).


anyadevāhurvidyayā'nyadāhuravidyayā .
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇāṁ ye nastadvicacakṣire .. 10..

By Vidyā one end is attained; by Avidya, another.
Thus we have heard from the wise men who taught this.

Anyat eva, a really different (thing); is produced as a result; Vidyayā, by vidyā (worship or meditation)—(this) āhu, they say, because of the Vedic texts:

The world of gods is (won) through meditation” (Brih. I. V. 16);
They ascend there through meditation”.

Āhuḥ, they say; anyat avidyayā by avidyā, karma (rites), a different (result) is produced, because of the Vedic text: “The world of the Manes (is won) through karma'"' (Brih. 1. V. 16).

Iti, thus; śuśruma, we have heard; dhīrāṇāṁ, (the teaching) of the wise men, those teachers, who vicacakṣire, explained to us; tat, that -karma and meditation.

The purport is that this is their knowledge traditionally received.


vidyāṁ cāvidyāṁ ca yastadvedobhayaɱ saha .
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā vidyayā'mṛtamaśnute .. 11..

He who knows at the same time both Vidyā and Avidya,
crosses over death by Avidya and attains immortality through Vidyā.

Since this is so, therefore vidyā and avidyā, i.e. meditation on deities and rites; yaḥ tad veda ubhayam saha, he who knows these together, knows them as things to be performed by the same person; for that man alone, who thus combines (the two), there occurs the successive acquisition of the two goals in the same individual.

This is being said:

Avidyayā, through avidyā, through rites such as Agni-hotra; mṛtyuṁ, death—rites and meditation induced by one’s nature tīrtvā, crossing over—over both these which are called death; vidyayā, through vidyā, the meditation on the deities; (one) aśnute, attains; amṛtam, immortality, identification with the deities; that very fact of becoming one with the gods being called immortality.

Now, with a view to combining the worship of the Manifested and the Unmanifested, each is being denounced separately:


andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye'sambhūtimupāsate .
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u sambhūtyāɱ ratāḥ .. 12..

They fall into blind darkness who worship the Unmanifested
and they fall into greater darkness who worship the manifested.

Ye, those who; (worship) asambhūtim: Sambhūti means the fact of being born, as also the effect that has this (quality of being born); other than that is asambhūti, called Prakṛti (primal material cause), avidyā (ignorance), and avyākṛta (the Unmanifested).

Those who upāsate, worship; this asambhūti—known as the unmanifest Prakṛti, cause, and avidyā, which is the seed of desire and work, and is blinding by nature; te, they; praviśanti, enter into; andhaṁ tamaḥ, blinding darkness, which is of a similar nature.

Tataḥ than that; bhūyaḥ, greater; iva, as it were; tamah, darkness; praviśanti, enter; ye, those who; sambhūtyām ratāḥ, are devoted to sambhūti—to the manifested Brahman called Hiraṇyagarbha.

Now in this verse are being stated the results of the 2 constituent worships, which (results) necessitate the combination of those worships: