Recently after landing in India on October 25th, I rushed to Pondicherry to attend the inauguration of Chinmaya Surya center and KumbhAbhishekam of the temple for Sun-God on, October 26th. I was also blessed with the discourses of guruji, shrI swami Tejomayanandaji, during the six-days that followed, with morning classes on IshAvAsya upaniShad and evening classes on gItA (Ch.7). When Swamiji explained the real meaning of the very first sloka of the upaniShad as a statement of instruction, I was thrilled with an inexpressible joy, as the teaching was unfolded. It was not just an emotional outcry of a longing soul but associated with an intense feeling of gratitude towards the teacher, where words fail to express. All I could do is to repeat in my mind a sloka from Swamiji’s own composition in j~nAna sAra text – that says about his teacher: …. punar namAmi namAmi – my prostrations again and again to that master, who lovingly uplifted me, who, as shrI vidyAranya says in pa~nchadashI, was like a worm caught up in a whirlpool moving from one whirlpool to the other, in this fast moving river of samsAra, nadyAM kITA iva AvartAt AvartantaraM Ashu te – pa~nchadashI (Ch.1-30). This write-up is an outward expression of that joy of listening to that sacred teaching, which I could not but share with all. It is offered as my shradhAnjali at the holy feet of Swamiji.
IshAvAyam - See that the Universe is pervaded by the Lord
The first sloka, after the invocation sloka – pUrNamadaH pUrNamidam... - is also a famous sloka with which many are familiar. The sloka is:
IshAvAsyam idagam sarvam yat kinca jagatyAm jagat|
tena tyaktena bhunjiithA mA gRidhaH kasya svid dhanam|| - Is.U.(1)
'All this, whatsoever moves in this universe, including the universe, itself moving, is indwelt or pervaded or enveloped or clothed by the Lord. That renounced, thou shouldst enjoy. Covet not anybody’s wealth. In essence it says: See God in all, To Him belong all, know, renounce and rejoice, Seek not to possess, nothing is yours.' Swami Chinmayananda.
Here, idam stands for the universe and sarvam implies every thing that can be pointed to as – idam or this. It includes not only the gross or tangible objects that can be pointed out as 'this' but also the subtler objects that include the mind, intellect, subtle impressions like vAsanAs and their expressions. Krishna calls idam as kshetram or field, and gives an elaborate description of all that it includes, in B.G. (Ch.13). IshaH means the Lord, who is the creator, the sustainer and the annihilator of all this. vAsyam has several meanings, as gurudev swami Chinmayanandaji stated above, and all the meanings are applicable; with each meaning unraveling the nature of the Lord from a different perspective.
IshAvAsyam idam sarvam – The statement is normally translated as: This universe is pervaded or clothed by the Lord. Swami Tejomayanandaji unraveled its deeper meaning. He said, vAsyam actually is an instructional statement of the teacher to the student – just as the instructions– shrotavyaH, mantavyaH, nidhidhyAsitavyaH. Obviously, it is an instructional statement by a teacher to his student who is seeking Brahma vidya, who must have approached him for the highest knowledge. It is stated in the sense of a vidhi statement i.e. statement of instruction that has to be done – as vAsyam. The specific instruction is - see or make sure that the Lord is pervading this entire universe. idam means this, i.e., anything that can be immediately accessible is designated by the word 'this'. That, which is spatially or time-wise remote, is normally designated by adam or that. idam sarvam means every thing that can be seen right here in front, which can be pointed to as this, this and this, as the instruction is going on.
Hence, it is a direct instruction to be followed right there, as the teaching is being received, and not leisurely later at the seat of meditation. As a side note, upaniShad begins with an instructional statement. It implies, similar to all other upaniShads, this upaniShad also involves a response to a question posed by a vedAntic student to his teacher, whom he must have approached with reverential attitude. A sincere vedAntic student is always provided an opportunity to ask a relevant question at an appropriate time to help him to discover the truth. In fact, scriptures themselves advise a student to approach a teacher of knowledge with a proper frame of mind and ask pertinent questions to seek the knowledge. This forms the basic vedAntic approach to gain knowledge of the truth.
In the sloka, idam or this, therefore, stands for what is present right here and right now– that is spatially and time wise all that which is immediately perceived. Complete instruction of the upaniShad, then, is– Make sure, right NOW and right HERE, that the Lord is pervading all THIS, the entire universe of names and forms that one is perceiving or thinking or conceptualizing, which can be pointed out as this, this and this. The student has to follow the instruction while the teaching is taking place, right then and there, and not later in the seat of meditation. That is the essence of– Ishaavaasyam idam sarvam.
The beauty is, whenever I see, I see only whatever that is there present right in front, which is immediately accessible then and there itself. Here and Now, go together with idam. I cannot see the past, as the past is dead and gone (I can only recollect the past experiences NOW, depending on my capacity to remember). In the past also, at the time of seeing, it was always present only. I cannot see in the future, since future is never born, for me to see. When the future arrives, it presents itself only as here and now. Hence idam sarvam covers every thing in the universe that is being seen or being known. The instruction to the student, therefore, is to make sure as you see, see that the Lord is present or pervading, or is covering everything that is being seen, thought of, or conceptualized. The implication is very profound for those who are tuned to the teaching.
How can I make sure of the presence of the Lord in every thing that I perceive?
Who am I, or what is my capacity or how can I, being a limited and tiny individual, make sure that the Lord of this entire universe is pervading every object that I see? Therefore, the instruction is not meant that I make sure Lord pervades everything. The Lord being the material cause for the universe pervades everywhere and everything, irrespective of whether I see or not. Hence all religions declare that He is omnipresent. Therefore, the above instruction only means that I should have correct vision of everything that I see or transact with, by recognizing that a thing is not just a thing only, but it is also pervaded or covered by the Lord. The instruction is, then, that as I see, think of, or transact with, I should have the clear vision of the presence of the Lord in every seen, in every thought, or in every object that I transact with. All pervading or infinite Lord cannot be 'seen' as an object though the five senses or as a feeling in the mind or thought or concept by the intellect, since whatever is 'seen' by the senses, mind and intellect are finite objects and by definition, inert. Hence instructional statement involves a statement of understanding on the part of the student. This requires the understanding of the nature of the Lord as sat-chit-ananda swaruupa. How do I recognize the presence of the Lord everywhere and in what way he exists everywhere and in everything? This is where the knowledge of the vedAnta comes to our help in seeing the presence of the Lord everywhere and in everything.
Part 2, Part 3