Isha Upanishad

aka Ishopanishad, Isavasya Upanishad, Ishavasyopanishad, Isavasyopanishad

"The Isha Upanishad is so called because it starts with the word isha. Isha means the Lord who is the inmost Self of all. Unlike other Upanishads, the Isha is all in verse, and many people think it is the oldest and best of the Upanishads. It is found in the Shukla Yajur Veda. Though it forms a part of the samhita section, which normally deals with rituals, the Isha Upanishad concerns itself only with nondualistic knowledge and has nothing to do with rituals.

As a rule, Upanishads bristle with disputes about knowledge and ignorance, the real and the unreal, and the one and the many. But the Isha Upanishad very succinctly resolves all these disputes. It shows how all that is relative finally dissolves into one Absolute existence. This Absolute is nameless and formless. In common usage, it is referred to as Brahman (the biggest), or the Paramatman (the Cosmic Self). This Brahman, or Paramatman, is the essence of our being and underlies all that exists. In names and forms there is diversity, but in spirit there is only one. The nature of this one and our relationship with it is the subject of enquiry of this Upanishad."

- Swami Lokeshwarananda

"The Isha Upanishad forms the fortieth chapter of the Vajasaneyi Samhita of the Shukla Yajur-Veda. The Upanishad, containing the Vedic philosophy, generally forms the concluding section of the Aranyaka, which, in turn, belongs to the Brahmana portion of the Vedas. The Isha Upanishad, however, is an exception, forming a part of the Samhita, or Mantra. It derives its name from the opening word of the book: Ishavasyam. A short treatise consisting of only eighteen mantras, or verses, the Isha Upanishad appears to be a very ancient Upanishad, as is evidenced by its versification and literary style.

The book contains many obscure passages, which are explained differently by different commentators to suit their particular theories and systems. We are following the commentary of Sankaracharya, according to whom the path of action and the path of knowledge cannot be pursued by a person at one and the same time. The goal of the former is the attainment of happiness in the relative world, here or hereafter, and the goal of the latter, the realization of Immortality through the knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Atman. But action, if performed following the instructions of the Vedas, ultimately prepares one for the cultivation of knowledge. The Isha Upanishad refers to both disciplines."

- Swami Nikhilananda

"This Upanishad derives its title from the opening words, Isa-vasya, “God-covered.” The use of Isa (Lord) a more personal name of the Supreme Being than Brahman, Atman or Self, the names usually found in the Upanishads constitutes one of its peculiarities. It forms the closing chapter of the Yajur-Veda, known as Shukla (White).

Oneness of the Soul and God, and the value of both faith and works as means of ultimate attainment are the leading themes of this Upanishad. The general teaching of the Upanishads is that works alone, even the highest, can bring only temporary happiness and must inevitably bind a man, unless through them he gains knowledge of his real Self. To help him acquire this knowledge is the aim of this and all Upanishads."

- Swami Paramananda

"This particular Upanisad derives its name from the opening words of its first Mantra. In all collections and enumerations of the Upanisads it occupies the first place, owing partly perhaps to the great spiritual significance of its contents and partly to the fact that it is the only Upanisad that is found as an integral part of a Samhita, which fact gives it the other name Samhitopanisad. It is the last chapter of the Sukla-yajur-veda-samhita. The Upanisads that are in verses (the most important ones, without doubt) are called Mantropanisads, Isavasya is the Mantropanisad par excellence."

- Swami Sharvananda

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